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Henrv Parrott Bacot, Louisiana State University Museum of Art. Baton Rouge 

John A. Burrison, Georgia State University, Atlanta 

Colleen Callahan, Valentine Museum. Riclniuniil. Virginia 

Barbara Carson, College of William and Mary. Williamsburg. Virginia 

Bernard D. Cotton, Buckinghamshire College. United Kingdom 

Donald L. P\-nnimore, [r., Wintertltur Museum. Winterthur. Delaware 

Leland Ferguson, University of South Caroluui, Columbia 

Edward G. Hill, M.D., Winston-Salem. North Carolina 

Ronald I,. Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Willamsburg. Mrginia 

Theodore Landsmark, President. Boston Architectural (Center. Boston. Massachusetts 

Car! R. Lounsbury, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Willamsburg. Virginia 

Susan H. Myers, National Museum of American History. Smithsonian bistitution. Washington. D.C. 

J. Garrison Stradling, Neic York. New \ork 

Carolyn J. Weekley, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Willamsburg, Vrginia 



Members of MESDA receive the loiirnal of Early Soi/tbern Decorativi' Arts, published in summer and win- 
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please write the Coordinator ot Membership Services, MESDA, P.O. Box loiio, Winston-Salem, NC 2710S. 

Cover illustration: Side cliait hy Petersen; maple and poplar, modern uplioKterv materials; Salem. North Caroln 
iSis-iS, HOA 3v'«'; woA iX'j"; Seat height 1^'. MKI s-6j,';. OlA Sjicm CnlUawu Ace. J.V^-j. 





The Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts is published twice 

a vear by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA). 

It presents research on decorative arts made in the South prior to i8zo, 

with an emphasis on object studies in a material culture context. 

Potential contributors are encouraged to contact the Managing Editor 
for guidelines concerning subject matter and manuscript preparation. 

.\11 correspondence concerning i\\t: Journal should he sent to the 

Managing Editor, Journal of Early Southeni Decorative Arts. MESDA. 

P.O. Box 10310, Winston-Salem, NC 27108. Correspondence concerning 

membership in MESDA, including renewals and address changes, 

should be directed to the Coordinator of Membership Services, 

MESDA, P.O. Box 10310, Winston-Salem, NC 27108. 

Articles from the Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts 3ite abstracted 
in the Bibhography of the History of Art and America: History' and Life. 

The paper used tor this publication meets the minimum American 

National Standard for intormation Sciences — Permanence of Paper for 

Printed Library Materials, ansi Z39.48-I984.=«^' and contams lo^^o 

post-consumer fiber. 

Some back issues ot the Journal are available. 

ISSN 0098-9266 

Copyright © 2002 by Old Salem, Inc. 

Designed and r^'peset in Adobe Garamond bv Kachergis Book Design, 

Pittsboro, North Carolina 

Prmted m the United States of America 



Such Luxuries as Sofas: An Introduction to North Carohna 
Moravian Upholstered Furniture 


Willis Cowling (1788-1828) Richmond Cabinetmaker 

Book Review 


Carl R. Lounsbury, From Statehouse to Courthouse: 

An Architectural History of South Carolinas Colonial 

Capitol and Charleston County Courthouse 77 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 


Such Luxuries as Sofas 

An Introduction to North Carolina 
Moravian Upholstered Furniture 


Smith recorded the following about the Moravians in Salem, 
North Carolina, in his 1790 travel journal: 

After traveling through the woods for many days, the sight ot this little 
settlement of Moravians is highly curious and interesting. Berween 200 
and 300 persons of this sect here assembled live in brotherly love and set 
a laudable example of industry, unfortunately too little observed and fol- 
lowed in this part ot the country. Every man follows some occupation; 
every woman is engaged in some feminine work; a tanner, shoemaker, 
potter, saddler, tinner, brewer, distiller, etc. is here seen at work; from 
their labors they not only supply themselves but the country all around 
them. The first view of the town is romantic, just as it breaks upon you 
through the woods; it is pleasantly seated on a rising ground, and is sur- 
rounded by beautiful meadows, well-cultivated fields, and shady woods. 
The antique appearance of the houses, built in the German style, and the 
trees among which they are placed have a singular and pleasing effect; the 
whole resembles a beautiful village. . . .' 

It seems somehow fitting that such an industrious group of set- 
tlers — isolated though they were in many ways in the heart of the 

Backcountry — should indulge occasionally in the luxury of uphol- 
stered furniture. 

Research materials gathered by the MESDA research program have 
shown that no place else in the Backcountry do we find widespread 
evidence of upholstered furniture as early as we see it in the Mora- 
vian settlements in North Carolina. Old Salem is fortunate to have 
both artifact and documentary evidence for upholstered furniture 
made and used by Moravians living in North Carolina in the eigh- 
teenth and nineteenth centuries. 

What were the factors that allowed Moravians to indulge in up- 
holstered furniture? Was upholstered furniture considered an indul- 
gence? What forms of upholstered furniture did the North Carolina 
Moravians have? What upholstered furniture might they have seen 
and been influenced by? What kind of upholstery materials did they 
use? Who were the upholsterers? Who were the consumers of uphol- 
stered furniture? These are all questions that the documentary and 
material evidence address in some fashion. 

The Moravians who founded the communities in North Carolina 
traced their history to the Bohemian martyr Jan Hus who burned at 
the stake in 1415 for his unrelenting opposition to the corruptions of 
the Roman Catholic Church. The death ol Jan Hus set ofi^a series of 
religious wars that disrupted middle Europe for decades. 

Despite persecution lasting for centuries and resulting in exile for 
Hus's followers in the seventeenth century, a small group of Hussites 
persevered in their beliefs and eventually found refuge on the Saxon 
estate of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf in 1722. Here they 
founded a religious community called Herrnhut and watched over 
the re-birth of the Unity of the Brethren, or as we refer to it today, 
the Moravian Church. It was in Herrnhut that the Moravians 
developed many of the unique practices and customs that they 
brought with them when they immigrated to the American colonies 
to establish congregation towns. The Moravians' spiritual beliefs 
were grounded in the principles of pietism and the importance of 


each church member's personal experience with the Savior. The Uni- 
t)' (or the church) maintained tight control over the material and 
spiritual affairs of the congregation. If a brother or sister could not 
live within the parameters set by the church, he or she was encour- 
aged to leave. 

Little more than a decade after the founding of Herrnhut, the 
Moravians began sending colonists to America. The first settlement 
founded in Georgia in 1735 failed, but the second, founded in Beth- 
lehem, Pennsylvania, in 1740-1741 did very well, and it was not long 
before the Pennsylvania Brethren had founded two additional com- 
munities, Nazareth and Lititz. The Moravians living in Pennsylvania 
quickly developed a reputation as responsible, industrious colonists. 
It was this reputation that encouraged John Carteret, the Earl of 
Granville and a Proprietor of the Royal Province of North Carolina, 
to welcome the Moravians" interest in founding a settlement in 
North Carolina. The Englishman sold them a 100,000-acre tract of 
land in Piedmont North Carolina, in 1752, which the Moravians 
called "Die Wachau" after Zinzendorf's Austrian ancestral estate.- 
See the map \n figure i. 

The master plan for the North Carolina settlement included the 
eventual establishment of a central industrial town or trade center in 
Wachovia, but the first Moravian settlers arriving in Wachovia in 
17S3 were more concerned with survival. The Moravians founded 
their first North Carolina settlement near an abandoned cabin in 
the northwest corner of the Wachovia tract. The name they chose 
for their new settlement, Bethabara, meaning "House of Passage," 
implied their understanding that the first settlement was but a step- 
ping stone to the founding of the central congregation town. 
Progress was slow in the Backcountry, however, and the "House of 
Passage" actually remained the central town for nearly twenty years. 
In the meantime, a second small village, Bethania, was founded in 
1759 just a few miles away. It was not until 1765 that the need for the 
central town was brought to the forefront once again and the site 
for the community was chosen. Construction of the town of Salem 


I. The Wachovia Tract 
(detail ot a larger map 
of North and South 
Carolina) by Henry 
Mouzon, et al.; ink 
on paper; London, 
England; 1775. hoa 40" 
WOA 57' 2". MliFS-209- 
Old Salem CoUectwu 
Ace. i024.j. 

was begun in 1766. By April 1772 much ot the town of Salem was 
completed and 120 people moved from Bethabara to Salem, leaving 
behind a small farming community. 

For the next several decades Salem functioned as a congregation 
town in which the Church was central to all spiritual, secular, and 
economic activities. Although church members owned their own 
houses and trade shops, the Church owned the land and leased lots 



to church members. The Church also owned and operated the ma- 
jor businesses and industrial pursuits of the community, including 
the tavern, store, tannery, pottery, and mill.' 

While the tightly controlled environment ol the church-governed 
North Carolina Moravian communities certainly placed many re- 
strictions on the residents, it also provided a safety net for craftsmen 
who might have found it difficult to make it on their own. The 
Church regulated competition among those practicing the various 
trades and supported these tradesmen by not only purchasing their 
goods, but also by promoting trade outside of Salem. Its clear from 
William Loughton Smiths remarks that he considered the Moravian 
community of Salem to be somewhat of an anomaly in the Back- 
country in that the residents seemed to have a much higher standard 
ot living than many oi their neighbors. In addition to observing that 
the Moravians in Salem "set a laudable example oi industry too little 
observed and followed in this country," Smith noted that the death 
rate in Salem between 1772 and 1791 "is only three per annum, a sur- 
prising proof oi the good effects of industry, sobriety, temperance, 
and a good situation."^ William D. Martin, an outsider who visited 
Salem in 1809, noted not only the industry of the residents, but also 
commented on the houses in the community which he considered 
to be "uncommonly well-constructed."' The quality of life enjoyed 
by the Moravians was due in part at least to the socially and eco- 
nomically controlled environment in which they li\'ed. 

Conversely, the North Carolina Moravians" quality oi life was also 
influenced by the extent to which they exposed themselves to out- 
side influences. Many oi the residents oi the North Carolina Mora- 
vian communities frequently traveled to large urban centers such as 
Charleston, South Carolina, Petersburg, Virginia, and Philadelphia, 
Pennsylvania, in pursuit of trade. Furthermore, many Moravians 
traveled between the North Carolina and Pennsylvania Moravian 
communities, passing through larger cities both for business and 
pleasure. Naturally, this contact increased the North Carolina Mora- 
vians' awareness of fashionable goods of all kinds, including furni- 
ture, by exposing them to current fashions and st}'les. In spite of the 


fact that the North Carolina Moravians clung to Baroque srs'listic el- 
ements and construction methods in furniture until the end oi the 
eighteenth century and even into the early nineteenth century as did 
some other German craftsmen working in America,'' the abundance 
of North Carolina Moravian upholstered furniture that can be docu- 
mented and the materials the North Carolina Moravians chose for 
furniture upholstery suggest that they understood what was fashion- 
able in upholstered furniture. 

In a letter regarding his transfer ftom Salem to Bethlehem in 1821, 
Salem administrator Lewis David deSchweinitz wrote the following: 

Naturally we shall not take our furniture with us. We hope to find the 
most necessary items there, since we shall suffer a financial loss at any 
rate. Will you be so kind to inform brother Schultz that he will find the 
necessary furniture [and] kitchen implements here . . . since I have 
bought all of this for a long time [from] the account ot the Administra- 
tion. . . . With regard to the furniture I had the rule to buy everything 
useful and necessary [from the] Administration account, and everything 
pertaining to vanity or decoration at my own expense. Thus, the above 
mentioned financial loss is merely punishment, well-earned, tor the en- 
joyment of such liLxuries as sofas, mahogany tables, chairs serving only 
decorative purposes, mirrors, vanin' curtains with tassels, etc., likewise 
bedsteads, cradles with everything pertaining to them, carpets of all 
shape and color. . . . 

That deSchweinitz mentions upholstered furniture at all is wor- 
thy oi note. Even in the 1820s, upholstered furniture does not seem 
to have been common in the Backcountry. Clearly, deSchweinitz 
recognized that his sofa was a luxury not found in every household. 
Even tor the more urban neighbors ot Backcountry Moravians, up- 
holstered furniture was generally a luxury enjoyed by only the 
wealthiest in the eighteenth century and not widely owned even by 
the middle class until well into the nineteenth century. 

Indeed, although Moravians seem to have had more upholstered 
furniture than their Backcountry neighbors, certainly in the eigh- 


teenth century and perhaps well into the nineteenth century, still 
not every Moravian household had an upholstered settee or arm- 

Many factors contributed to the Moravians awareness of fashion- 
able upholstered furnishings and their desire to have them. In addi- 
tion to their exposure to goods in large urban areas in America as 
mentioned earlier, the North Carolina Moravian craftsmen were 
influenced by their European counterparts. When they established 
the North Carolina communities, the Moravian leaders chose the 
founders of these communities with care, making sure that these in- 
dividuals had the trades essential to create working communities. 
While many of the craftsmen came to North Carolina from the 
Pennsylvania communities in the eighteenth century, many were re- 
cent immigrants to America from the European communities and 
others came directly from Europe to live in the North Carolina set- 
tlements. The Moravians founding the American settlements came 
for the most part from well-educated, middle-class families who, no 
doubt, brought ideas about fashionable furniture forms and styles 
with them. Constant communication between the American and 
European Moravian communities throughout the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries and continued immigration of European Mora- 
vians to the American communities ensured that the transference of 
ideas about furniture st)'les and forms continued as well. 

The Moravians settling in the North Carolina Backcountry in the 
mid-eighteenth century brought a tradition of upholstered furniture 
with them from Europe via Bethlehem. The greater-than-usual 
space between the splat and seat of the early Bethlehem armchair 
shown in figure 2 suggests that the chair at one time had a squab or 
cushion sitting upon the woven seat. Is that upholstery? Perhaps 
only in the loosest sense, but the upholstered leather easy chair from 
Bethlehem pictured in figure j certainly qualifies in the traditional 
sense of the term. Although the current leather upholstery is a re- 
placement, the chair was probably originally upholstered in a similar 
material. Both pieces were acquired in the North during the early 


2. (fight) Antichilr, maker 
unknown; walnut with 
split oak seat; Bethlehem, 
Pennsylvania; 1740-60. 

HOA 47"; WOA 1ZV^"■, DOA 

iS'i". MRFS-1262. Old 
Salem Collection Ace. 6qS. 

3. {far right) Easy chair, 
maker unknown; walnut, 
leather, brass, foundation 
materials unidentified; 
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; 
1780-1800. HOA 51' 2"; 

WOA 24''2"; DOA l8'2". 

MRF 1261, Old Salem 
Collection Ace. 4S0.IJ. 

years oi' collecting tor Old Salem. These chairs are the kinds oi" 
pieces that Moravians living in North Carolina had seen in Pennsyl- 
vania or might have even brought with them when they settled in 
North Carolina. 

Traditionally, upholsterers in urban areas were often hired to pro- 
vide all oi the textile components ot a room including window 
treatments and carpets. Many also advertised that they were paper- 
hangers or combined the upholstery trade with cabinetmaking. 
MESDA's catalog of artisans includes only eighteen upholsterers 
in the Backcotmtr\' in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth cen- 
turies. Several oi these advertised that they made hair mattresses, 
bed and window curtains, and fitted carpets or hung wallpaper in 


WINTER 2001 

addition to upholstering furniture.* Some were also saddlers and one 
advertised that he trimmed coaches. Perhaps because none of the 
craftsmen associated with upholstery in Salem considered the skill to 
be his primary craft or trade, none of the seven North Carolina 
Moravian craftsmen documented as having been involved in uphol- 
stery in Salem ca. 1800 to 1850 are included among the upholsterers 
listed in the MESDA catalog. Clearly, upholsterers were rare in the 
Backcountry and the fact that Salem had at least seven craftsmen as- 
sociated with upholstery within a fifty-year period is especially note- 

In his 1846 Pmiomma of Trades and Professions, Edward Hazen dis- 
cusses the cabinetmaker and upholsterer together in one chapter, al- 
most dismissing the actual tasks carried out by the upholsterer in 
this way: 

We have not space tor a particular description of the manner in which 
any of the particular operations ot the upholsterer are performed; nor is 
this necessary, since the work itself, in almost every specimen of it, 
affords obvious indications of the manner of its execution. " 

The art and mystery of upholstery seems to have been of little 
consequence to Edward Hazen, and the North Carolina Moravian 
Church records do not elaborate on specific techniques used by 
those upholstering furniture. The furniture itself does indeed "afford 
obvious indications of the manner of [upholstery] execution." While 
the Moravians apparently did not have craftsmen who focused solely 
on upholstery, artifact and documentary evidence exists to suggest 
the materials the Moravians used when upholstering furniture, the 
kinds of upholstered furniture they had, and how the Moravians 
used the upholstered furniture that they made and owned. 

Leather was a common covering for early North Carolina Mora- 
vian upholstered furniture. It seems logical for this durable material 
to have been a popular and practical choice given the availabilit)' of 
leather from Salem's red tannery operated as one of the Church in- 
dustries.'" Most of the early tannery records are in German, making 
it difficult to search for evidence of upholstery leather among the in- 


4- Windsor stool, maker unknown; poplar, 
maple, hickory, paint, modern upholstery mate- 
rials; Salem, North Carolina; ca. 1780. hoa 
29'/2"; DOA zs'/i"; dia of seat i^Vi". MRFS-1168, 
Old Siilem Collection Ace. ySj. 

ventories without a translator. The 1814 Tannery 
inventory is in English, but although the inven- 
tory lists some specific-use materials such as "sa- 
dle [sic] leather," "harness leather," and "Soal 
[sic] leather," the listing does not include any 
terminology that would lead one to believe any 
of the stock at the time was intended specifically 
tor fijrniture upholstery." It is not until the late 
1830S that the inventories are routinely recorded 
in English. The first English reference to leather 
specifically for fiarniture upholstery appears to 
be an entry on the 1839 inventory of stock on 
hand that includes "Calf-seating" among the 
other items listed as "Finished Leather."'^ 

The leather upholstered Windsor stool ca. 
1780 illustrated in figure 4 is an early example of 
upholstered furniture owned by the Salem con- 
gregation. In fact, the congregation marked it as 
belonging to them with a brand of the letters 
"GD," an abbreviation for Gemein Diacony. 
Other pieces with histories of Church owner- 
ship that bear the "GD" mark now in the Old 
Salem collection include a North Carolina 
Moravian Windsor chair and the remnant of a 
wooden rake. 

The translation of the "Inventory of What 
the Single Brother's House Took Over from 
the Diacony on Januar)' i, 1770. The Saddler's 
Trade" includes some ver)' interesting materials 
related to upholstery. Among the saddles and 
tools for making saddles are listed: seven yards 
"Red Plush," three yards "Blue Plush," five 
yards "Green Plush," "Blue Fringe," and assort- 
ed cord and bindings." The 1771 inventory of 


WINTER 1001 


5. A Gentleman at Breakfast, 
attributed to Henry Walton, 
1775-80, oil on canvas, hoa 
25"; woA 30%". Courtesy of 
the Toledo Museum of Art, 
Toledo, Ohio: Ace. ig^.yy. 

the saddler's trade included fourteen yards fringe, twenty yards nar- 
row binding, and a "supply of hair."" These materials, particularly 
the various colors of plush and fringe, could have been used either 
for furniture upholstery or carriage upholstery. 

Other early references to upholstery materials do not mention 
who might have completed any associated upholstery work. The 
1784 inventory of sundry supplies in the Single Brothers' House in- 
cluded twenty-five yards of "Furniture,"" the 1785 inventory lists 
thirty yards "Furniture,"'" and the 1786 inventory included twenty- 
nine yards "fine check" with 7V2 yards "furniture" listed just below 
it.' All of these references refer to the type ot fabric used to make 


loose covers such as the one on the chair in the eighteenth-century 
interior shown in figure 5, cases for cushions, bed hangings, or cur- 
tains. Other evidence that the North Carolina Moravians may have 
continued to use loose covers or slipcovers into the nineteenth cen- 
tury includes an 1825 entry in the Salem Diacony Journal that lists 
$0.50 paid for making a "pillow & bag for a chair."" Receipts from 
the 183OS and 1840s include numerous charges for furniture calicos, 
furniture prints, and furniture check.'" 

A 1793 memorandum found among letters to Gottfried Haga, a 
forwarding agent in Philadelphia, includes a large list of things pre- 
sumably to be sent from Philadelphia including "Jac. Meyer cloth 
for a sorfat [sic] 3 yd if yd wide & trimmings."-" By this time, Jacob 
Meyer, once the tavern keeper, was acting as administrator of the 
Single Sisters. It's not clear from the listing, however, whether the 
sofa was one Brother Meyer owned himself or one that he was hav- 
ing recovered for the Single Sisters. A later entry on the same memo- 
randum lists "Cloth for Koffler for a sorfat."-' Adam Koffler moved 
from Bethabara to Salem in 1772. He seems to have done a variety of 
things through the years to earn a living including weaving, clock re- 
pair, silversmithing, and serving as a spokesman to strangers visiting 
Salem. In 1793, he was also working as the town nightwatchman." It 
is unclear whether Meyer and Koffler planned to undertake the up- 
holstery of their respective sofas themselves. The memorandum is 
simply evidence that each was acquiring materials intended for the 
upholstery of a sola. 

Indeed, very early in the records we find evidence of the town 
saddler taking responsibility for upholstering furniture. On 30 April 
1801, the Salem Diacony Journal records payment "for polstering a 
chair by Charles Holder."-' The charge was one pound four shillings. 
Charles Holder arrived from Pennsylvania in Salem in 1766 at the 
age of 22 to "begin the saddlers trade."-' He had a long but rocky ca- 
reer as the saddler, often being chastised by the church for not work- 
ing hard enough and not producing enough saddles. In the rare 
times when he did produce, he was criticized for making saddles of 
poor quality.-" In 1789, the church records note that in response to 


criticism of his work, Charles Holder "is always complaining about 
the saddle trees, though it is certain that the main fault lies with his 
upholstery."''' It is interesting then that the church should have 
Holder upholster a chair for them. The upholstery oi the chair did 
come at a time when Holder was complaining of not having enough 
work to do.-' Perhaps the church was trying to help the debt-ridden 
saddler stay afloat. Or perhaps in spite of his less-than-perfect up- 
holstery technique. Holder as the saddler — a trade closely related to 
furniture upholstery — was the only person in town trusted to under- 
take the upholstery of furniture. 

The North Carolina Moravians were quite concerned about the 
proper care ot the sick in the community. In communal living quar- 
ters sick individuals were often segregated from the rest of the resi- 
dents. The 14 February 1793 minutes of the Heifer Conferenz-' note 
that, "the married people need a reclining chair like the one in the 
Brother's House, for the use of the sick. . . ."-" It may have taken 
quite some time for the wishes of the Heher Conferenz to be real- 
ized, however, for it was not until 16 February 1796 that the minutes 
of the Aufseher Collegium, another ruling body of the church, 
record that "some time ago it was decided to get a warming pan and 
an arm-chair for the use of the sick ... a design for the latter has al- 
ready been received from Bethlehem, and it shall now be made." 
The I March 1796 entry elaborates on the chair by adding, "the 
frame of the armchair shall be made of cherry-wood, which Br. 
Christoph Vogler will furnish.""' 

The upholstered chair presented in figures 6 and 6a with ad- 
justable back and leg supports is just the type of chair, and perhaps 
one of the chairs to which the previous passages refer. This particular 
chair has a history of ownership by the Single Brothers' Diacony. 
The fact that it is constructed of walnut rather than the cherry that 
was to be used for the chair discussed in 1796 provides additional ev- 
idence that it may have been the sick chair used by the Single Broth- 
ers that the Heifer Conferenz wanted to duplicate. 

Although this chair looks as though it could have been made ca. 


6. Sick chair, maker unknown; walnut, leather, horsehair, wook 
linen, brass, and iron; Salem, North Carolina; 1775-90. hoa 
53"; 25V2"; seat height 19". MRFS-$7^, Old Salem Collection Ace. 

1760 with its baroque vasitorm baluster turnings, it likely dates 
1775-90 and is an excellent example ot the Moravians' tendency to- 
ward retention of baroque style. The footrest has rwo possible set- 
tings and the back is equipped with ratcheted arms that allow it to 
recline at eleven different angles. In the eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries it was not uncommon to do surgery while a patient was 
sitting, and the adjustable nature ot the chair provided the doctor 


WINTER 2001 

with needed flexibility to position the patient at the proper angle for 
various procedures. No doubt the chair was also adjusted to make its 
ailing occupant more comfortable. Brass knobs on the sides of the 
top portion of the chair probably held a cover in place to protect the 
leather upholstery. While the seat upholstery seems to be second 
generation, remaining upholstery elsewhere on the chair appears to 
be original. Damage to the leather show cover reveals that beneath 
the leather is a linen skimmer over curled horsehair stuffing. 

The Moravians' concern for separating the sick from the healthy 
members ot the community in order to prevent or at least restrict 
the spread oi disease continued into the nineteenth century as well. 
The 1828 inventory of the Boys' School sick room includes one easy 
chair valued at $5.00." The chair presented In figure 7 is one known 
to have been used by the Pennsylvania Moravians in one of the sick 
rooms in Bethlehem at the end of the eighteenth century. Perhaps 
this is the type of easy chair that was in the Boys' School sick room. 
The value of the chair and the description of the chair as an easy 

6a. Sick chair presented in figure (fin reclined position. 


7- Armchair, maker unknown; ash or hickory with modern up- 
holstery materials; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; 1788. hoa 43%"; 
WOA 25"'8"; DOA iiW. MRFS- 1206s. Courtesy of the Moravian 
Museum of Bethlehem, a member insthutwu of Historic Bethlelxm 
Partnership, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. 

chair seem to imply a simpler version of a sick chair than the ad- 
justable sick chair discussed earlier.'- 

An 1812 list of furniture belonging to the Salem diacony included 
rvvo upholstered chairs in the warden's or trustees house." We know 
little about the chairs beyond that they were covered in something 
and that one was described as "small" and the other was listed as 
having once belonged to a brother named Heinze.*' They could have 
been side chairs such as the late baroque example shown in figure 8, 


WINTER 2001 

which was originally used in the Friedburg congregation just a few 
miles from Salem. Perhaps they were more like the later cherry side 
chair shown m figure g that has a history of early usage in the Home 
Moravian Church in Salem and more recently at Trinity Moravian 
Church before its return to Salem. An interesting mixture of styles, 
the chair in figure g retains a baroque crest rail and a late rococo 
pierced splat all on neoclassical tapering legs. The leather upholstery 
on this chair is original as a damaged corner shows that there is only 

8. Side chair, maker unknown; walnut, leather, brass, 
foundation materials unidentified; Salem, North 
Carolina; 1770-80. hoa 47%"; woa 19%"; Seat height 
20". MRF S-^7S4. Private collection. 

9. Side chair, maker unknown; cherry, leather, 
linen, curled horsehair, grass, brass; Salem, North 
Carolina; 1790-1810. hoa 43y8"; woa 20%". MRF 
S-7801. Old Salem Collection Ace. €-326. 


one set oi tack holes on the rail. Beneath the leather is a linen skim- 
mer. The seat is supported by 2'/4-inch webbing and linen sacking 
material that appears to match the skimmer. The stuffing materials 
are not visible on this chair, although evidence suggests that they 
consist of grass and curled horsehair. The seat is trimmed in near- 
continuous brass nails that are original to the chair. An entry in the 
Salem community store journal lists charges to Henry Herbst for 2 
V2 yards of cloth and brass nails on 9 May 1815.'' While the materials 
could have been destined for a saddle, it is interesting to speculate 
that Herbst could just as easily have been purchasing materials to 
upholster a chair such as the example m figure g. 

Of course, these entries in the Inventory could be referring to a 
small armchair such as the example shown in figure 10, shown here 
with replaced upholstery. This chair has some interesting construc- 
tion anomalies. The upholstery itself appears to be third generation. 
A survey of upholstered North Carolina Moravian chairs conducted 
by conservator Nancy Rosebrock revealed that beneath the current 
leather, there is evidence of at least two prior upholstery treatments. 
Some old 2'/2-inch-wide webbing remains intact on the underside. 
Additional new webbing has been added. There have been some 
structural changes to this chair that remain somewhat of a mystery. 
One thing that is clear, however, is that, although they are currently 
finished as show wood, the arms have tack holes indicating that they 
were once upholstered. Furthermore, the smaller-than-usual "ear 
wings" have been altered or perhaps added."' 

While leather seems to have been a common covering for Mora- 
vian upholstered chairs throughout the eighteenth century and into 
the nineteenth century, Moravians used other fashionable upholstery 
materials for show covers as well. The Salem Communit)' Store Let- 
ters Books include an 1805 letter to Gottfried Haga in Philadelphia 
that includes some accounting related to fabrics that may have been 
used lor furniture upholstery. Although the majority of the letter is 
in German, at the end of the letter is a "Statement of Sundries" that 
includes various kinds ol worsted, hair, and plush. The list seems to 


be a statement of both what has been retutned 
because it has not sold and what has been sold. 
The list of items sold includes " 8 yd ribbed green 
hair, ii!/2[yards] blue worsted, and 4 [yards] red 
plain worsted." ' 

In 1816, Peter Wolle, a teacher in the Boys' 
School wrote, "after dinner I went to Petersen 
and bought 2 elegant chairs for our house, which 
Br. Stotz was very willing to pay for — They cost 
$5.00."'** Perhaps the chairs were similar to the 
chair in the portrait of Charles Bagge and his 
family shown in figure 11. The chair in this por- 
trait appears to be upholstered in some kind of 
blue plush. Or perhaps the chairs were similar to 
the upholstered example presented in figure 12. 
This chair was made and indeed signed by a cabi- 
netmaker working in Salem in the first half of the 
nineteenth century, Karsten Petersen. Although 
he was originally from Schleswig Holstein, Prus- 
sia, and apparently lived for a time in Denmark, 
Petersen came to Salem via Gnadau, Germany, in 
1806 (Petersen's portrait is presented in figure ij). 
Karsten Petersen was one of an influx of four cab- 
inetmakers arriving in Salem from Germany be- 
tween 1806 and 1809. Shortly after his arrival, Pe- 
tersen went to work as a missionary among the 
Creek Indians in Georgia. Upon his return to 
Salem in 1813, he began work as a turner and cab- 
inetmaker in Salem. An extant account book 
from the Petersen shop provides evidence that 
most chairs sold by Petersen in the 1820s and 30s 
cost between so. 30 and so. 75 apiece. Therefore, 
S5.00 for two chairs seems extravagant and im- 
plies that there was something special about 

10. Armchair, maker unknown; walnut with re- 
placed upholstery materials; Salem, North Car- 
olina; 1790-1810. HOA 41%"; WOA 2i%"; Seat 
height 15-%". MRFS-I2S6. Old Salem Collection 
Ace. C-48^. 


II. Charles Bagge Family 
by Daniel Welfare; oil on 
canvas; Salem, North 
Carolina; ca. 1832. hoa 
i',W\ WOA 43y8". MRF 
5-1146}, Old Salem Collec- 
tion Ace. S^Sp. 

them. The example in figure 12 descended in the Petersen family. 
While the srvdistic composition of the chair with its curved saber legs 
and scrolled crest rail is similar to late neoclassical chairs made 
throughout Europe and America, Peter Thornton describes a similar 
chair pictured in an 1813 Frankfort interior as being a "well-known 
German form."" The solid wooden bottom probably replaced linen 
sacking material and webbing, and served as support for the founda- 
tion stuffing — probably a combination of grasses, wool, and curled 
horsehair. One of the interesting things about this and other pieces 
of upholstered furniture made in the Petersen shop and in the shops 
of others working in Salem in this period is that certain components 
(in this case the back panel) are completely removable for uphol- 
stery, similar to the way a slip seat is removed from a chair. The back 
panel is held in place by tension created by the angle at the top of 
the frame for the back cushion that corresponds to an opposing an- 
crle on the chair frame. 


WINTER 2001 

while there are two references to sofas in 
Salem prior to the nineteenth century (the sofas 
for which Jacob Meyer and Adam KofBer pur- 
chased cloth), early references to sotas and/or 
settees are few, and the next reference chrono- 
logically is on the 1802 "List of the House Fur- 
nishings which belong to the [Carl Gotthold] 
Reichel's future home." Until 1841, ministers of 
the Salem congregation occupied a living quar- 
ters in the Gemein Haus, or congregation house. 
The Moravians periodically compiled invento- 
ries oi church property in the Gemein Haus and 
other church buildings. The 1802 inventory list 
was compiled in preparation for the arrival of 
Rev. Reichel who was coming from Nazareth, 
Pennsylvania. Interestingly, this inventory lists a 
canape, the French term for settee, as one piece 
of furniture that would be available to Reichel 
and his family.'" 

An 1811 list of furnishings that Rev. Reichel 
left in Salem when he returned North to Bethle- 
hem, Pennsylvania, lists a walnut frame for a 

canape.-^' Perhaps by this time the upholstery was North Carolina; 1815-25, hoa 353/8"; woa \Wi; 
worn and in need of replacement. Or perhaps Seat height 17". mrfs-62}i. Old Salem Collection 
the covering for the settee had consisted of cush- Ace. 28^7. j. 
ions such as would have been used on the exam- 
ple in figure 14 and the cushions were not with 
the sofa at the time of the inventory. Another 
canape (or perhaps the same one) appears in the 
1813 inventory of "Furnishings belonging to the 
present Dwelling of Jacob Van Vleck." Jacob 
Van Vleck became Salem's minister in 1813. Al- 
though many of the furnishings on the invento- 
ry of Van Vleck's dwelling differed from those 

12. Side chair by Karsten Petersen; maple and 
poplar, modern upholstery materials; Salem, 


13- Portrait of Karsten 
Petersen with two of 
fiis grandchildren 
from an original 
daguerreot)'pe, pho- 
tographer unlcnown; 
Salem, North Caroli- 
na; ca. 1850. MRF 
S-246SI, courtesy of 
the Old Salem Photo- 
graphic Archives. 

on the list of items Reichel left behind, perhaps a sofa was a fixture 
in the ministers living quarters that remained in place to be used by 
subsequent occupants. 

The earliest sofas in the Old Salem collection show strong Ger- 
man and Scandinavian influence. In Authentic Decor: The Domestic 
Interior 1620-1920, Peter Thornton illustrates "A middle class draw- 
ing room in Stockholm 1798" which pictures a settee vtry similar to 
early Salem sofas, complete with the type ot loose cushions that no 
doubt completed the upholstery ol a sofa such as the example in 
figure 14.'- 

Thornton also includes an illustration oi "Three Copenhagen In- 
teriors ca. 1814," one of which includes furniture that Thornton de- 
scribes as "a Danish version of French Empire."^'' The straight backs, 
flared arms, and straight tapered legs of the sofa pictured in this 
room and the ones in the other two interiors are clearly similar to 
the Salem sofa made between 1810-30 and shown in figure is. These 


WINTER 2001 

interiors also illustrate the kind of cushions that probably completed 
the upholstery of this piece, some of which were reproduced at the 
time that this sofa was reupholstered in 1998. This Salem example is 
also remarkably similar to a much smaller settee this author has seen 
in a museum in Herrnhut, Germany, in its overall shape, the slight 
splay of the legs, and the composition of the arm rails and supports. 
The largest difference between the Herrnhut sob and the Salem ex- 
ample is the width: the Herrnhut example could not possibly seat 
more than two small adults while the Salem examples could com- 
fortably seat three adults. 

The length of the Salem sofas in this period and the form of the 
sofa without the back and end cushions {see figure 14) indicate that 
they might also have functioned as couches or daybeds when need- 
ed, similar perhaps to the way the daybed is being used in the view 
of a music teacher s room in Stockholm a bit later in the nineteenth 
century [see figure 16). Peter Thornton, in his Authentic Decor: The 
Domestic Interior 1620-1920, refers to a similar piece, shown in figure 

14. Sota, maker unknown; 
poplar, modern upholstery 
materials; Salem, North 
Carolina; 1800-20. loa 
81"; HOA 3l'/2"; DOA i-jVi . 

MRFS-1^14^, Old Salem 
Collection Ace. S-0Q. 


15. Sota, maker unknown; 
walnut, poplar, and pine, 
with modern upholstery 
materials; Salem, North 
Carolina; 1810-30. loa 
yiVi"; HOA jsVs"; doa 
26V2". MRFS-1S146, Old 
Salem Collection Ace. 

ly as a "sofa Bed."'^ In tact, Louisa Hagen, a teacher at the Salem 
Girls' School writes in her diary: 

As soon as I was at home, they told me that S. was very sick with the 
tever, consequently I did not see him untill [sic] I had been there some 
time when he came in the room on the sofa. I pity him very much, in the 
midst ot pain he expresses his love to me every time he sees me. . . . Miss 
K. has just been telling me there is a report spreading that S wanted to 
marry me. I am quite unconcerned as I cant [sic] help it it he does. I have 
never intruded myself on him I know. This evening something occurred 
which could ^\ve a talk. I was setting on a chair beside the sofa where he 
was setting, & fanned him when the door was open & one of the town 
kitchen girls looked in without any reserve. ""^ 

In another diary entry eight months later, Louisa writes of being un- 
well all day and, upon returning home, "reclining on the sofa, untill 
[.f/V] Vesper."^" Clearly, at least in the Hagen household, the sofa was 
considered to be a comfortable place to rest by visitors and family 
members who were feeling poorly. 



WINTER 2001 

Missing from Salem sofas, of course, is the trundle base seen in 
many illustrations that serves as an additional sleeping surface. 
Salem sofas are also generally about tour or five inches shorter than 
Salem beds and seem a little bit shorter than the sofas in these illus- 
trations, although perspective can be difficult to judge. 

An 1822 receipt in the Moravian archives includes two charges 
to Gottlieb Byhan, a community and church leader, by saddler Hein- 

-' ' /^Miy-tCK ''•l-'^.":-'-)-^- /w,.'. ):'..fc ...' r.i, '>,'.> f'^'-'^n.i 

.%.,;,-:<,.-:«^. o^; 

16. A music-teacher's room in Stockholm by Josabeth Sjoberg, c. 1847. Courtesy 
of the Stockhohn City Museum, Stockholm, Sweden, Ace. EJ2844. 


ly. A school-teacher's 
room in Stockholm by 
Johan Gustaf Kohler, 
1843. Courtesy of the 
Stockholm City Muse- 
um. Stockholm, Swe- 
den, Ace. F4777}. 

rich Herbst: one for "sofa cushions — the making" and the other for 
"3 bushels ot hair."^" Given that there is no evidence that the sofa in 
figure 18 was ever upholstered over the rails, the webbing (replaced 
here by second-generation webbing) probably supported some kind 
of cushion. Although the central brace is replaced on this example, 
structural evidence suggests that the sofa originally had a central 
brace that would have helped to prevent the webbing and cushion 



WINTER 2001 

from sagging in the middle. Missing from this piece are the front 
and back central legs. The central mortises under the rails still con- 
tain jagged wood fragments indicating that the legs may have been 
broken off at some point, perhaps intentionally in an effort to up- 
date the look of the sofa so that it would more closely resemble the 
newer style being made by Salem cabinetmakers in the second quar- 
ter of the nineteenth century. 

The German and Danish influence on North Carolina Moravian 
upholstered furniture, particularly sofas, continues well into the 
nineteenth century with the introduction of the Biedermeier taste. 
Salem sofas become shallower, possibly eliminating their use as 
daybeds and securing their function as purely seating furniture. The 
overall appearance of the sofas is more elegant. The privately owned 
example shown in figure 19 descended in the Petersen family and is 
marked with the stamp Petersen used to mark his tools. Two addi- 
tional sofas in the Old Salem collection have more elaborate scrolled 
crest rails in addition to the splayed legs and scrolled arms. One such 

18. Sota, maker 
unknown; poplar, paint, 
cotton and jute webbing; 
Salem, North Carolina; 
1810-30. LOA -ji)"' HOA 
3l'/2"; DOA 25%". MRF 

S-ip4/, OUSa/em Collec- 
tion Ace. 4222. 


K3» ^- "^ 

19. Sohi by Karsten 
Petersen; walnut and 
yellow pine with mod- 
ern upholstery materi- 
als; Salem, North Car- 
olina; 1830-40. LOA 79" 
HOA 35'4"; DOA 24^4". 
A/AV- ,s-JJ-,'o. Private col- 

20. Sofa by Karsten 
Petersen; cherry and 
poplar, curled 
horsehair, wool, grass, 
linen, some modern 
upholstery materials; 
Salem, North Carolina; 
1830-50. LOA 72"; HOA 
25"; DOA 23'/'2". MRF 

S-62J0. Old Sdlem 
Collection Ace. 28^7.2. 

example is shown \n figure 20. All three sofas are strikingly similar to 
the one depicted in the 1829 Wilhelm Bendz painting of a Danish 
interior (see figure 21) . 

Another example of the Biedermeier influence can be seen in the 
Salem sofa illustrated in figure 22 (shown with modern upholstery) 
and its resemblance to the sofa seen in the 1832 painting by Danish 
artist Constantin Hansen (see figure 25). Notice the use ot the 
scrolled arms combined with turned legs in both examples. The sofa 
in figure 22 was clearly intended to be upholstered over the rails as 
the interior edges of the wooden frame are slightly recessed. Interest- 
ingly, the woman in the portrait hanging over the sofa in the Hansen 
painting (figure 2j) appears to be dressed in clothing typical tor 
Moravian women in the eighteenth century. The most distinctive 

21. hitcrwr in the 
Amaliegade by Wilhelm 
Bendz, c. 1829, oil on 
canvas, hoa 32.3 cm; WOA 
49 cm. Courtesy of the 
Hirschsprung Collection, 
Copenhagen, Demniirk; 
Ace. ji. 


22. Sofa, maker unknown; cherry and poplar with modern upholster)' mate- 
rials; Salem, North Carolina; 1820-40. loa 81"; hoa 34 "; doa 23". MRF 
S-IS144. Old Salem Collection Ace, 5-^74- 

part of her artire is the haube on her head fastened at the neck with a 
blue ribbon. Moravian women in America and abroad traditionally 
wore different colored ribbons with their hauben to indicate their 
marital status. A blue ribbon was worn by married women. That the 
portrait is included in the painting seems to be a Moravian connec- 
tion and may help to explain the sry'listic similarities between the 
sofa in the painting and the Salem example.^' 

Although references to sofas in Salem are few prior to the 1820s, 
the number of references increases steadily after the second decade 
of the nineteenth century. Old Salem owns one account book from 
the shop of Karsten Petersen that served variously as his daybook 
and journal. The account book seems to be one of at least three be- 
cause notations in the book refer to an "old book" and a "new 


WINTER 2001 

23- A Hunter Shows a Little Girl His Bag by Constantin Hansen, 
1832, oil on canvas, hoa 44.5 cm; WOA 34 cm. Courtesy of NY 
Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark; Ace. 18^6. 

book." Despite being only one of a series, the Petersen account book 
includes a wealth of information about cabinetmaking in Salem in 
the 1820S through the 1840s and in some cases about the residents 

A February 1825 entry in Petersen's book includes an account of 
Br. Hulthin, one-time master cabinetmaker in and business manager 


of the Single Brothers' House when the entry was made. The entry 
reads as follows: "Feb. 2 Br. Hulthin, Canape Polstern $5.50, twine 
.25, 7 yards cord .56, 4 yards alte .20, leather and glue, .30, nails and 
fillets [trim] .40. paid 7.21.""" The translator of this account book, 
which was originally written in German, mistook "Canape Polstern" 
to be canopy bolsters. Despite his Danish and German background, 
Petersen and his contemporaries frequently used French terms for 
furniture. The French term for settee is canape, as noted earlier in 
the discussion of the inventories of Reichel and Van Vleck's furnish- 
ings. Therefore, the correct translation for "Canape Polstern" is "Set- 
tee Cushions." Because the journal lists nails, glue, and trim, this en- 
try may very well refer to the upholstery of a settee rather than the 
making of loose cushions. In 1827 Constantin Benner purchased a 
"Canape" or settee from Petersen for $27.00. Although the journal 
does not note upholstery, the high price of the piece implies that it 
was upholstered. 

Perhaps Petersen, like the saddlers — both his contemporary Hein- 
rich Herbst and Herbst's predecessor, Chades Holder — was consid- 
ered to have special skills in the area of upholstery. In fact, Herbst 
must have upholstered furniture in both leather and fabric, for in 
1830 the Salem Diacony purchased "14 yds of Domestic plaid (for 
Herbst for a sofa)" from Jacob Blum & Co. (a store in Salem) on 
November 22. The charge was $2.40."' Less than a month later, 
Salem's business manager, Lewis Benzien, paid Herbst for sofa re- 
pairs, thread, tacks, and four bushels of hair. The total for the repairs 
and supplies was $4.80." 

Herbst and Petersen were not the only craftsmen repairing and 
upholstering sofas in Salem in the nineteenth century. In 1839, Peter 
Fetter, a turner and chairmaker was paid $50.00 for the making of 
four settees for the tavern."' Considering the relatively low price of 
the settees, it seems unlikely that Fetter was paid for upholstered 
pieces. Perhaps someone else was doing the upholstery work or mak- 
ing cushions for them. Of course, they might have been intended to 
remain unupholstered. The 1848 Salem Tavern inventory lists four 
settees in the parlor along with eighteen chairs."' 


Charles Kremer and Edward Belo were paid $2.75 in 1841 for the 
making of sofa cushions/' Kremer (his portrait is shown \n figure 24) 
had worked in the shop ot saddler Heinrich Herbst for a time and 
may have learned furniture-upholstering skills there. Ot course, he 
could just as well have learned those skills as part of his training pri- 
or to coming to Salem. By the 1840s cabinetmaker Petersen had 
some competition from the shop of his former apprentice Jacob 
Siewers, who by this time was in partnership with his brother John 
Siewers. An 1846 receipt for work done by John Siewers includes a 
sofa purchased by Thomas Pfohl for the Bishop's House in Salem tor 
$25.00." An 1844 account lists a charge for the painting and repair- 
ing of a sofa by Siewers tor Thomas Pfohl.'"' Jacob and his brother 
John Siewers were partners for several years and during that time 
they evidently did some upholstery work as well. A portrait of John 
Siewers is presented in figure 2j. In 1847 they charged the church 
$4. 00 for covering and varnishing a sofa." The bulk of this charge 
must have been tor the upholstery work itself because an 1849 charge 
for simply varnishing a sofa trame was only $0.75."* 

Petersen and his contemporaries seem to have rejected many char- 
acteristics seen on what today we today refer to as empire furniture 
and early Victorian classical turniture found in more urban areas and 
even in other parts of North Carolina; characteristics such as figured 
veneer, carving, and heavier pillar and scroll ornaments. Even as the 
Salem sofa evolved as the nineteenth century progressed, Salem cabi- 
netmakers kept the lines of their pieces elegantly simple. The sofa 
seen in figure 20 is in the Old Salem collection and attributed to 
Karsten Petersen. It descended in the Petersen family before it was 
given to Old Salem by Karsten Petersen's granddaughter. This sofa 
bears a remarkable resemblance to the Salem sofa that appears in the 
Daniel Welfare portrait of Salem hat maker Isaac Boner and his wife 
Elizabeth (figure 26). 

This sofa is a fascinating example of the Moravian genius when it 
comes to upholstery. The piece takes the concept of a slip seat to an 
extreme degree. For the most part, the frame is bed bolted together. 
The various upholstered components, including the seat, are held in 


24. Portrait ot Charles Kremer by Daniel Welfare; oil 
on canvas; Salem, North Carolina; 1830-40. hoa 22"; 
WOA 19"; DOA i/g". j\IKI'S--2ig. Old Salem Collection 
Ace. 2022. 1. 

25. Portrait oFJohn Siewers from an original tintype; 
Salem, North Carolina; ca. 1865. MRFS-27886, courtesy of 
the Archives of the Momviau Church, Southern Province, 
Winston-Salem, NC. 

place with screws and can be detached with relative ease tor cover- 

The underside ot the seat is composed ot boards rabbeted togeth- 
er to support the toundation materials. The foundation materials 
used in this sota seem to be fairly standard among upholstered pieces 
in Salem. Although the various components ot the sota have been 
reupholstered several times, the toundation materials on the back 
and arm panels appear to be original. The toundation materials ot 
these components consist of coarse grass and curled horsehair cov- 


WINTER 2001 

26. Portrait of Isaac and 
Elizabeth Boner by 
Daniel Welfare; oil on 
canvas; Salem, North 
Carolina, 1835. hoa 21"; 
WOA 17". MRFS-isS4(), 
Old Salem Collection Ace. 


ered in coarsely woven linen. Evidence ot the original show cover has 
been obliterated by subsequent treatments. 

It is unclear whether the original upholstery of any of the later so- 
fas included the use of springs. While several sofas do have solid bot- 
toms and are currently upholstered with springs, this writer has been 
unable to locate references to springs being ordered or used. The one 
sofa that has been de-upholstered to the point of revealing the 


27- Rocking chair, possibly by John Vogler; spht oak, 
leather, wool, cornhusks; Salem, North Carolina; 

1830-40. HOA 36"; WOA 30"; DOA 18". MRF S-6797, Old 

Siilein Collection Ace. 421. i. 

28. Armchair, possibly bv John Vogler; split oak, 
modern upholstery materials; Salem, North Car- 
olina; 1830-40. HOA 32"; WOA 18"; DOA 14%". MRF 

S-6-^gj,. Old Salem Collection Ace. 2^9.11. 

springs showed the use ot early-twentieth-century springs. Other 
foundation materials found in Salem upholstered furniture include 
finer grasses, newspaper, and even corn husks, as in the case of the 
small rocking chair shown in figure 27. Although the upholstery has 
been replaced, the side chair shown in figure 28 was probably origi- 
nally upholstered with the same materials. Both ol these chairs have 
a strong family tradition ot having been made by silversmith John 


WINTER 1001 

29. Rocking chair, maker 
unknown; maple, hickory, 
oak, leather, tow, and linen; 
Salem, North Carolina, 

1810-30. HOA 43%"; WOA 

2i%". MRFS-9818, OU Salem 
Collection Ace. C-^jo. 

Vogler, although Vogler could easily have purchased them elsewhere 
in the Backcountry. The seat of the rocking chair is upholstered in 
leather under which is a layer of wool over cornhusks. 

As mentioned earlier. Old Salem has a very important eighteenth- 
century sick chair in its collection. Even in the middle ot the nine- 
teenth century, North Carolina Moravians seem to have had a tradi- 
tion of using upholstered furniture for the care of the sick. Two 
chairs that descended in the John Vogler family are said to have been 
used by his wife Christina (1792-1863) as her health declined in mid- 
century. The first is the rocking chair in figure 29. While the rockers 



. Detail of the underside of the frame of 
rocking chair presented in figure ig. 

^ and footrest may have been later additions, the 

chair has its original leather upholstery that may 
have survived in such good condition in part be- 
cause, according to the accession records, it was 
protected by a black (probably horsehair) cover of 
some kind. This cover was not removed until after 
the chair had been added to the Wachovia Histori- 
cal Society collection. The seat is supported by a 
two-board platform chamfered into the front and 
back seat rails with what appears to be webbing 
above [see figure 29a). The stuffing material is tow 
held in place with a linen skimmer on the arms 
and seat. The original leather show cover is still in- 
tact. The back of the chair is buttoned with small 
leather tufts spaced regularly across the upper and 
lower back. The tufts are nailed into place with 
tacks that go through the leather show cover and 
the stuffing, securing all of these materials to 
curved vertical wooden strips on the rear of the 
chair {see figure 2C)b). A small tear in the leather re- 
veals a natural and blue striped linen skimmer be- 
neath the leather. Also visible through the tear is 
the tow used as foundation stuffing. 

A similar chair, also in the Old Salem collection 
and also attributed by the Vogler family to the 
hand of John Vogler, is the leather upholstered in- 
valid chair seen in figure ^0, complete with hard- 
ware lor either attaching some kind of tray or per- 
haps attaching a mechanism for holding someone 
in the chair. The seat of this chair is supported by 
wooden platform similar to the one on the rock- 
ing chair, but this time the webbing is on the out- 
side of the platform (see figure ^ou). Interestingly, 
John Vogler marked this chair on the bottom with 


WINTER 2 001 

29b. Rear view of rocking chair 
presented in figure ig. 

his initials. Tow is used as stuffing in this chair just as it is used in 
the rocking chair associated with the Voglers. Although the front of 
the chair has a show cover, the skimmer is exposed on the rear of the 

Another interesting component of the stuffing of this chair is an 
August 1858 newspaper left carefully folded and stuffisd into the back 
to offer firm support in the lower section of the chair. The newspa- 
per is signed by John Vogler {see figure }ob). Although newspaper is 
not unheard of as an upholstery stuffing material, the fact that John 
signed it is significant as is the date of the paper in confirming the 


30. Sick chair, probably by John Vogler; 
cherry maple, hickory, oak, poplar, 
leather, linen, tow, newspaper, cotton, 
brass, iron; Salem, North Carolina; 1858. 

HOA 4S'7i.."; WOA 2l7i..". MRFS-272I6. Old 

Salem Collection Ace. 44^4. 

use of the chair by his wife Christina as her illness be- 
came more serious. In the memoir they wrote for their 
mother, Christinas children commented that, 

Mother was naturally of a very strong and healthy constitu- 
tion, but during the past five years [emphasis added] she 
has been subject to very frequent & severe attacks of illness 
which gradually undermined her system. . . . Medical skill 
was sought & tried for years, but though momentary reliei- 
was obtained the cause could not be removed." 

Christina died in July of- 1863, almost exactly five years 
after the newspaper was placed so carefully beneath the 
leather show cover ot this chair. This is most likely as 
much of a confirmation as we will ever get as to when 
the chair was made — five years before Christina's death 
when her illness became so troublesome. This chair is 
probably the one mentioned again in an 1871 inventory 
of John and Christina's son Elias's household. The list 
of objects in the parlor includes an "Invalid Chair" val- 
ued at $5.00."" 

The Old Salem collection includes evidence ot up- 
holstery beyond chairs, solas, and settees. In 1838, sad- 
dler Charles Kremer was paid $6. 00 by Salem warden 
Thomas Plohl for "covering a chair and table (for 
Church).""' Kremer might have been covering a table 
such as the one seen m figure ^i on exhibit in the Single 
Brothers' House Saal. A table such as this one was listed 
on a 1776 inventory of the Gemein Haus as "The table 
with green Curtain and black leather cover.""- Perhaps 
by 1838 the eighteenth-century table cover had been 
considerably worn and was in need of replacement. In 
1844 Edward Belo was paid for i'/2-yards ot velvet for a 
desk fall"' and in 1850 Thomas Pfohl was charged $0.50 
by J. D. Siewers for the "covering of a writing desk with 




3oa. Detail of underside of frame of 
sick chair presented m figure jo. 

30b. Detail of newspaper 
with John Vogler's signature 
found under the leather 
showcover on the sick chair 
presented in figure }0. 

31. Upholstered table (at left) on exhibit in the Single Brothers' House Saal, 
Old Salem, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

The 1820 inventory oi the estate of the Reverend Samuel Stots 
hsts among other furnishings, two cushions and a covered stool, 
each valued at $0.30.''" The covered stool could have been as simple 
as the Windsor stool illustrated in figure ^2, on which the show cover 
has been replaced numerous times, or perhaps an earlier version of a 
little footstool like the one in figure jj covered in the Berlin work of 
Cornelia K. Smith, a student at Salem Girls' Boarding School 
1851-53. One wonders if the piano stool teacher Sophia Chitzel pur- 
chased from Petersen in 1824 was intended as a base on which to ex- 
hibit her own handiwork or perhaps the work of one of her stu- 




References to curtains and curtain rods in North Carolina Mora- 
vian inventories, church receipts, and Petersen's account book are 
numerous, including one listing for "i frame and iron rods for Bed 
curtains" on the list of furnishings and garden tools left behind by 
Rev. Reichel when he returned to Bethlehem." There are many ref- 
erences throughout the nineteenth century to yardages of furniture 
prints, furniture calicoes , and furniture check beyond those already 
mentioned. It's likely that some oi these fabrics might have been 
used for window or bed curtains. There are also references to fringe, 
curtain pins, curtain boards, and, in the case ot the deSchweinitz 
correspondence mentioned earlier, "vanity curtains with tassels.""^ 
With the exception of the deSchweinitz reference, few of the nota- 

32. Windsor stool by Karsten Petersen; oak, 
paint, curled horsehair, grass; Salem, North 
Carolina, 1820-40. hoa 21"; dia 14V2". MRF 
S-i$i42, OU Siilem Collection Ace. 77p. 

33. Footstool, possibly by Karsten Petersen; maple, poplar, 
pine, linen, wool (needlework cover by Cornelia K. Smith, 
1851-53); Salem, North Carolina; 1820-40; hoa 8"; woa 12" 
LOA 12". MRFS-1^143, Old Sdlern Collection Ace. S-48. 


tions regarding curtains give much descriptive information about 
how the curtains were made or installed, although the same people 
who upholstered furniture were apparendy involved in the making 
and hanging of curtains in the mid-nineteenth century. For exam- 
ple, Jacob Siewers was paid $0.75 in 1841 for the making of a curtain 
board'" and Thomas Pfohl purchased curtains from Petersen in 


Perhaps a fitting end to a discussion about Moravian upholstery in 
North Carolina is a few references to what may have been uphol- 
stered coffins. The Petersen account book includes charges for forty- 
four coffins made in the shop between 1824 and 1843. They vary in 
price from about $2.00 to $12.00 depending on the size, type of 
wood, and date of manufacture. Although people in the twenty-first 
century imagine that they will be laid to rest in a beautifully lined 
and padded coffin complete with satin pillows, coffin linings in the 
Moravian town of Salem apparently were a relatively uncommon 
luxury. Only twice, once in 1833 and once in 1835, does Petersen 
record that a coffin had a lined interior. ' The coffin made in 1835 
and charged to Natin [sic] Chaffin was lined in flannel — less flam- 
boyant than the satin lining in coffins today, but an apparent luxury 
for the nineteenth century."^ Both of the lined coffins were construct- 
ed of walnut, the most costly wood used for coffins. One cost sio.oo 
and one cost S12.00, making them some of the most expensive 
coffins sold by Petersen between 1824 and 1843. Of course it is un- 
likely that we will ever know how the interior linings were applied to 
the coffins, but the relatively high cost implies upholstery. This au- 
thor has not studied other nineteenth-century Backcountry cabinet- 
maker's account books to see if they list lined or upholstered coffins, 
but she suspects that just as upholstery of the furniture for the living 
was unusual in the early nineteenth-century Backcountry, so was the 
upholstery of furniture for those who had departed this life. 

While most of the extant evidence of upholstery is found on seat- 
ing furniture including stools, chairs, and sofas or settees made by 
Salem cabinetmakers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, 


documentary sources also point to Moravian craftsmen undertaking 
the upholstery of other forms such as table and desk tops as well as 
coffins. In the absence oi crahsmen devoted to the trade of uphol- 
stery, at least three oi the saddlers and four oi the cabinetmakers 
working in Salem in the eighteenth and nineteenth century seem to 
have satisfied their customers' desire tor upholstered furniture. Even 
John Vogler, a silversmith by trade, may have tried his hand at up- 
holstering furniture for his own family. 

Interestingly, several of the upholstered pieces mentioned in the 
eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century North Carolina Moravian 
records appear on inventories of buildings owned by the church: the 
chairs in the various rooms of Gemein Haus, the settee that is listed 
on the inventory of furnishings in the living quarters of two minis- 
ters in Salem (first Reichel and later Van Vleck), and the eighteenth- 
century sick chair are all examples of church-owned upholstered fur- 
niture. Later in the nineteenth century, documentary research offers 
more evidence for upholstered furniture owned by individuals and 
families living in Salem. Perhaps the early evidence points to church 
ownership because individuals did not own as many upholstered 
pieces. It is tempting to speculate that in the early period most up- 
holstered pieces were owned by the church and adorned rooms 
where church leaders would be likely to entertain official visitors to 
the community. On the other hand, since most of the eighteenth- 
and early-nineteenth-century documents available for study are re- 
lated to the church and church leaders rather than ordinary residents 
of the North Carolina communities, it is impossible to know for 
sure the extent to which the households of other congregation mem- 
bers had upholstered furniture in this period. By the second quarter 
of the nineteenth century, it is clear that individual residents pur- 
chased and enjoyed upholstered furniture. 

Was upholstered furniture considered an indulgence by the North 
Carolina Moravians? At least one member of the Salem congregation 
considered the sofa in his home to be an object "pertaining to vanity 
or decoration," referring to it as a luxury. The North Carolina Mora- 
vians certainly seemed to have had sophisticated taste in furnishings 


compared to their Backcountry neighbors. It is clear that the North 
CaroHna Moravians were aware of proper upholstery techniques and 
materials, adapted them to suit their skills and their needs, and ap- 
plied them to create an outstanding body oi work unmatched in any 
other community' in the Backcountry. 

Many factors contributed to the North Carolina Moravians' 
awareness of fashionable furnishings, such as upholstered furniture 
and their desire to have them, including their trade involvement in 
such urban areas as Charleston, Philadelphia, and Petersburg. Fur- 
thermore, the Moravians in North Carolina were influenced by their 
European counterparts, some oi whom immigrated to the North 
Carolina communities via Pennsylvania and, no doubt, brought 
ideas about furniture forms and srv'les with them. Finally, it may 
have been the church-controlled social and economic environment 
in which the North Carolina Moravians lived and worked that al- 
lowed them a qualit)' of life complete with "such luxuries as sofas." 

JOHANNA M. BROWN IS Director of the Depdrti)ie)it of Collec- 
tions and Curator for Old Salem Inc. in Winston-Salem, North Caroli- 
na. This article was developed from a lecture Johanna Brown presented 
at the MESDA Furniture Seminar in February 2001. 


1. Albert Mjthews. ed. loiirnal of W'illhun Lotiglnon Smith. i-qo-i~qi. Cimbridge: The 
University Press, 1917: 72 

2. A frequently used substitute tor Die \\',uh,ui is \X',hhovui. the latinized form of the word. 

3. A number of Church boards facilitated the management of the community. The Ael- 
testen Conferenz or Elders' Conference was responsible for the spiritual affairs of the communi- 
ty'; the Aufseher Collegium or Board of Supervisors managed the material and financial affairs of 
the communit)-; and the Heifer Conferenz or Helpers' Conference was an advisoty board made 
up of ministers. The Helpers' Conference evolved into what is known today as the Provincial 
Elders' Conference, which is the administrative body ot the Moravian Church. Southern 
Province. Each of these boards kept prolific records and many ot the early German records 
have been translated from German to English. 

4. Mathews, 72-75. 

5. Anna D. Elmore, ed. A Joiirnev from South Ciruliihi to Connecticut in the year iSo(): The 
Journal of \\"illi,im D. Martin. Charlotte: Herit.ige House, lOS'):!!-!!. 


6. See John Bivins, "Baroque Elements in North Carohna Moravian Furniture," luiinuil of 
Early Southern Decorative Arts, Vol. II, No. i (May 1976). 

7. Letter from deSchweinitz to Hucftel, 9 October 1811. in Moravian t^hurch 
Archives, Northern Province, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Transcription in Old Salem Personnel 
and Subject Files in MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

8. The total number ot upholsterers listed in the MESDA catalog as working in the South 
is 286. Ot these, 157 are recorded in the Chesapeake region and iii in the Lowcountry. Twelve 
of these upholsterers are listed as working in Augusta, Georgia. Although Augusta has tradi- 
tionally been considered a part ot the Backcountr)', newer scholarship suggests that especially 
in the early nineteenth century, Augusta was more closely associated with the Lowcountn,'. 
Therefore, the twelve upholsterers in Augusta have been included as part ot the total number 
of upholsterers documented as working in the Lowcountry. 

9. Edward Hazen. Popular Technoloff or Professions and Trades (Hazen's Panorama). New 
York: Harper and Brothers, 1846. Reprinted by the Early American Industries Association, 
1981: 146. 

10. Gillian Lmdt Gollin in Aloranam ni Two Worlds: A Study of Changing Conimumttes. 
New York: Columbia Universit)- Press, I967;i'i6. The author notes that, "In 1747, the most lu- 
crative business in Bethlehem appears to have been the tannery." According to Karen Huetter, 
Educational Services, Historic Bethlehem Partnership, Inc., the high point of the tannery was 
ca. fdo-So. Production reached its peak during the Revolutionary War when the Bethlehem 
tanner)' was producing leather hides for both the communit)- and the Continental Army. 

11. "Tanyard Inventory April 30th 1818" (R 704:4), Moravian Church Archives, Southern 
Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

u. "Tanyard Inventory 1839" (R704:4), Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, 
Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

13. Translations of the "Inventor)' of What the Single Brother's House Took Over from the 
Diacony January i, 1770. The Saddler's Trade." Originals in the Moravian Church Archives, 
Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Translations tided "Accounts and Inven- 
tories" in Old Salem Lot 62 Files, MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

14. Translations of the "Inventory of What the Single Brother's House Took Over from 
the Diacony January i, 1770. The Saddler's Trade." The entire 1771 inventory is not translated, 
but items new to the 1771 inventory are translated and listed. Originals in the Moravian 
Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Translations titled 
"Accounts and Inventories" in Old Salem Lot 62 Files, MESDA Research Center, Winston- 
Salem, North Carolina. 

15. "Inventory of Sundry Supplies, 1784." Original in the Moravian Church Archives, 
Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Translation titled "Accounts and Inven- 
tories" in Old Salem Lot 62 Files, MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

16. Ibid, 178s. 

17. Ibid, 1786. 

18. Salem Diacony Journal IV. n June 1825. "Sundry Accounts Dr. to Cash." Moravian 
Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

19. See Bills, Receipts, and Vouchers Folders. Moravian Church Archives. Southern 
Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

20. Godfrey Haga Letters, Memorandum 20 June 1793 (C:22). Original in the Moravian 
Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

21. Ibid 

22. Translation ot various board minutes pertaining to Adam KofHer. Original copies of 



minutes in Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carohna. 
Compilation of translated minutes in Old Salem Personnel and Subject Files in MESDA Re- 
search Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

13. Salem Diacony Journal 1772-1800. Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, 
Winston-Salem. North Carolina. 

14. Minutes of the Aufseher Collegium, 17 November 1766. Moravian Archives , Southern 
Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Translation by Erika Huber in Personnel Files in 
MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

15. Translation of various board minutes pertaining to Charles Holder. Original copies of 
minutes in Moravian Archives . Southern Province. Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Compi- 
lation of translated minutes in Personnel Files in MESDA Research Center, ^'inston-Salem, 
North Carolina. 

;6. Minutes of the Aufseher Collegium, 3 November 1789. Moravian Church Archives, 
Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Translation by Erika Huber in Old 
Salem Personnel and Subject Files in MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem. North Car- 

27. Translation of various board minutes pettaining to Charles Holder. Original copies of 
minutes in Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 
Compilation of translated minutes in Old Salem Personnel and Subject Files in MESDA Re- 
search Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

28. The Helter Conferenz was an advisor)' board made up ot ministers. 

21). Adelaide L. Fries, ed. Records oftheMomvuins m North Caroliiui. Vohime 17. Raleigh: 
The North Carolina Historical Commission, 1943: 2476 

30. Ibid. 2S67. 

31. Inventor}' of the Salem Male Academy, 21 January 1828. Boys' School Manuscripts, 
Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

32. The Moravian Museum in Historic Bethlehem. Pennsylvania has in its collection a 
leathet upholstered easy chair marked, "\- KRANKEN STUBE 88." The translation of 
Kranken Stube is "sick room" indicating where the chair was used. 

33. Some Lists of Furnishings Belonging to the Congregation Diacony. "Furnishings in the 
Warden's House," 1812. Originals in the Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, NX'in- 
ston-Salem, North Carolina. Translations in the MESD.A Research Center, Winston-Salem, 
Nofth Carolina. 

34. Ibid 

35. Salem Communin' Store 1814-is, page 118. Original in the Moravi.m Church 
Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Copy in the Old Salem Inc. 
Research Librar)', Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

36. Nancy Rosebrock. "Upholstered Chair Survey Report. " Original in Accession file C- 
4S5, MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

37. Salem Community Store Letter Book 1801-1S13. Copy in the Old Salem Inc. Research 
Librar)', Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Original in the Moravian Church Archives, South- 
ern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

38. "Peter WoUe Diaries," pages 172-73. Translated by Peter S. and Irene P. Seadle. Trans- 
lation in the Old Salem Inc. Research Librar)-, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

39. Peter Thornton. Authentic Decor: The Domestic Interior 1620-IQ20. New York: X'iking 
1984: 19S, figure 260. 

40. "List of the House Furnishings which belong to the [Carl Gotthold] Reichel's future 
home." 1802. Translation in the MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 
Original in the Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Car- 


olina. Ejrly translators understood the term canape to be canopy, but given the Moravians' 
propensity' (or using French terms to describe furniture, the term is actually canape and there- 
tore, the proper translation to English is settee. 

41. "Furnishings and Garden Tools which Br. Reichel leaves in Salem," 19 April 1811. 
Translation in the MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Original in the 
Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

42. Peter Thornton. Authentic Decor: The Domestic Interior 1620-1920. New ■^'ork: Viking, 
1984: 181, figure 130. 

43. Ibid. 201, figures 264, 265, 266. 

44. Ibid. lyb. 

45. Diary ot Louisa Cynthia Hagen Sussdorf (1837-1876), 11 July 1857. Transcription and 
original in the collection of Old Salem Inc., Accession number 4364, Winston-Salem, North 

46. Ibid. 22 April 1838. 

47. "Gottlieb Byham Dr. to Henn,- Herbst." September and October 1822. Receipt in Bills, 
Receipts, and Vouchers Folder, 1S23. Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Win- 
sron-Salem, North Carolina. 

48. Paul Peuker, Moravian Archivist at Herrnhut, Germany, graciouslv checked the 
Church Register at Christiansfeld tor the names of the artist and subject of this painting since 
Christiansfeld was the main Moravian settlement in Denmark. Neither name appeared in the 
Church Register, but that does not necessarily mean neither had a connection to the Moravian 
Church. Additional research may shed more light on any Moravian connection that may exist. 

49. Account Book ot Karsten Petersen, 2 Februar\' 1825, page 3. Original and translation 
part of the Schober Papers in the collection of Old Salem Inc., Winston-Salem, North Caroli- 

50. "Salem Diaconie Dr to Jacob Blum &: Co. 22 November 1S30." Receipt found in Bills, 
Receipts, and Vouchers Folder, 1830. Moravian Church .Archives. Southern Province, Win- 
ston-Salem, North Carolina. 

51. "Lewis Benzien Dr to Henry Herbst," December 1830. Found in Bills, Receipts, and 
Vouchers Folder. 1830. Moravian Church .Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, 
North Carolina. 

32. "Thomas S. Ptohl Dr. to Peter Fetter" September 1839. Receipt found in Bills, Receipts, 
and Vouchers Folder, 1839. Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, 
Norrh Carolina. 

53. "Arricles on Hand at the Tavern in Salem, 1849" Original in the Moravian Church 
Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Translated transcription in the 
MESDA Research Center, Winsron-Salem, North Carolina. 

54. "Mr. Thomas Pfohl Warden of Salem to Kremer & Belo Dr," 2- May 1S41. Receipt 
found in Bills, Receipts, and Vouchers Folder, 1841. Moravian Church Archives, Southern 
Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

55. "Thomas Pfohl in Act. With J & J Siewers," 24 January 1846. Receipt in Bills, Receipts, 
and Vouchers Folder, 1846. Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, 
North Carolina. 

56. "Thomas Pfohl in Act. with J. Siewers," 28 October 1843. Receipt in Bills, Receipts, and 
Vouchers Folder, 1844. Moravian Church Archives. Southern Ptovince. Winston-Salem, 
North Carolina. 

57. "Rev. Charies Hege in Account with J.D. & J Siewers," s June 1S47. Receipr in Bills, 
Receipts, and Vouchers Folder. 1847. Moravian Church .Archives, Southern Province. Vi'in- 
ston-Salem, North Carolina. 


58. "Thomas Pfohl in Act with John D. Siewcrs." 27 July 1849. Receipt in Bills, Receipts, 
and Vouchers Folder, i8so. Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, 
North Carolina. 

sq. Memoir of Christina Vogler who died 8 July 1863. Original m collection oi Old Salem 
Inc., Accession number 4142.61, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

60. "Schedule B.2. (Inventory) In the Matter of E.A. Vogler-Bankrupt. Personal Propert)'," 
<i July 1871. Original in the collection of Old Salem Inc. Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

61. "Salem Warden Thomas Pfohl Dr. to Charles Kremer," 6 April 1838. Receipt found in 
Bills. Receipts, and Vouchers Folder, 1838. Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, 
Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

62. "Inventory of the Gemein Haus, 1776." Original in the Moravian Church Archives, 
Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Translation in the MESDA Research 
Center, Winston-Salem, Norrh Carolina. 

63. "E. Belo's Bill," 30 April 1844. Bill found in Bills, Receipts, and Vouchers Folder, 1842. 
Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

64. "Rev. Thomas Pfohl in act with J.D. Siewers, May 10. 1850." Receipt in Bills, Receipts, 
and Vouchers Folder, i8si. Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, 
North Carolina. 

65. "Inventory of the Estate of Samuel Stots dec'd October 3, 1820," Microfilm Reel A-i. 
Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem. North Carolina. 

66. Karsten Petersen Account Boojt, 9 December 1824, page 3. Original and translation 
part of the Schober Papers in the collection of Old S.alcm Inc., Winston-Salem. North Caroli- 

67. "Furnishings and Garden Tools which Br. Reichel leaves in Salem," 19 April 1811. 
Translation in the MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Original in the 
Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

68. Letter from deSchweinitz to Hueffel, 9 October 1821. Original in Moravian Church 
Archives, Northern Province, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Transcription in Old Salem Personnel 
and Subject Files in MESDA Research Center, Winston-Salem, Nonh Carolina. 

69. "Thomas Pfohl in ac with J. Siewers," 26 August 1841. Found in Bills, Receipts, and 
Vouchers Folder, 1S44. Moravian Church Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem, 
North Carolina. 

70. "Thomas Pfohl Dr. to K. Petersen. " 2- November 184s. Found in Bills, Receipts, and 
Vouchers Folder, 1846. Moravian Church .Archives, Southern Province, Winston-Salem. 
North Carolina. 

-I. K.irsten Petersen Account Book, 26 Januan- 1833. page 43; 20 October 183s, page 43. 
Original and translation part of the Schober Papers in the collection of Old Salem Inc., Win- 
ston-Salem, North Carolina. 

72. Little has been written on cotfins and undertaking in the South in the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries. Brad Rauschenberg's article, "Coffinmaking and Undertaking in 
Charleston 1705-1820," (Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts. Vol. XVI, No. i |May 
1990I), is one excellent discussion of the subject. Rauschenberg documents the lining ot coffins 
with HanncI in Charleston, revealing similarities to upholstered coffins in Salem. 

The Moravian Archives, Southern Province is located at 4s'' S. Church Street. Winston- 
Salem, North Carolina 27101. The mailing address is P.O. Box L Salem Station. VC'inston- 
Salem. North Carolina 2~io8. 


Willis Cowling (1788-1828) 

Richmond Cabinetmaker 



THE LIBRARY OF V I RG I N I A contains an interesting Set 
of papers that document the business affairs of Richmond 
cabinetmaker Willis CowUng (1788-1828).' Collected by a 
special commissioner appointed to settle Cowling's estate, the papers 
were not disposed of after the settlement — which was usual — but 
were stored among the Richmond cit\' court records and are now 
housed at the Library of Virginia. 

The Cowling Papers provide a wealth of information pertaining 
to Cowling's activity as a cabinetmaker, as well as his mercantile ac- 
tivity. They contain correspondence to Cowling, accounts, invoices, 
furniture price lists, and cancelled checks. This research note uses 
this documentation to look at three aspects of Cowling's career: his 
connection to northern cabinetmakers and merchants, his role in re- 
lation to other Virginia cabinetmakers, and his price lists. 

The 1820 census lists Richmond, with a population of 12,067 in- 
habitants, Norfolk with 8,478, and Alexandria with 8,218. The cen- 
sus also provides data for the number of persons engaged in com- 
merce and manufacturing. Richmond had 539 persons engaged in 

I. Detail of A Map of 
Virginia Formed fivm 
Actual Surveys b\' James 
Madison, William Pren- 
tis, and William Davis, 
1807. Colored, engraved 
map. Originally published 
in six sheets. Courtesy of 
Map Collection i^s^/iSo-'), 
Archives Research Services. 
The Library of I 'irginia. 

commerce compared to 147 in Norfolk and 331 in Alexandria. In the 
area of manufacturing Richmond had 1,305 persons compared to five 
in Norfolk, and 699 in Alexandria.' See Jignre i for an 1807 map of 
Virginia; figure 2 presents an 1835 engraved map of Richmond by 
Micajah Bates. An 1822 view of Richmond by J.L. Boqueta de Wois- 
eri is illustrated in figure ^. 

Marianne Sheldon in her dissertation Richmond, Virginia: The 
Town and Henrico County to 1820 suggests that from 1780 to 1820 
Richmond attempted to become a commercial center, but failed be- 
cause it was not able to capture the market of the Virginia back- 


WINTER 1001 

2. A Plan of the City 
ofRiclnnond Drawn 
from Actual Survey 
and Original Plans by 
Micajah Bates, 1835. 
Engraved map. Cour- 
tesy of Map Collection 
(7S5.44/i8}s)> Archives 
Research Services, The 
Library of Virginia, 

3. A View of 
Richmond, Virginia 
by J.L. Boqueta de 
Woiseri, 1822. 
Engraved print. 

HOA 23", WOA 35". 

Courtesy of Virginia 
Historical Sociery 
(negative 9S}-}i- 

country. Commercially Richmond was overshadowed by New York, 
Philadelphia, and Baltimore. After 1820 Richmond began to shift its 
focus to becoming a manufacturing center in the areas of flour, to- 
bacco, and coal and iron.' Cowling's entrepreneurial activities, which 
are discussed latter, involved selling coal and tobacco in New York. 
Richmond's move to become a manufacturing center placed it in fur- 
ther contact with a national economy which in turn provided for a 
further influx of northern furniture. The Cowling papers show how 
Willis Cowling dealt with the problem of northern competition. 


Willis Cowling, the son oi Josiah Cowling and his wife, Urania 
Munro, was born in Nansemond County, Virginia." Nothing is 
known of his training or early work as a cabinetmaker. The first 
record of Cowling as a cabinetmaker is found in the Prentis Papers 
at the Universit)' of Virginia. From 1811 to 1813, Joseph Prentis of 
Suftolk, Virginia, patronized Cowling's shop for repairing and mak- 
ing furniture." In 1815 Henry Gray, administrator of Joseph Gray, de- 
ceased, of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, paid Willis Cowling $1.00 
for making a coffin for a slave." The personal property tax was paid 
in the count}' or cit}' where one was a resident. The Nansemond 
County personal property taxes do not survive before 1815, and 
Willis Cowling is not on the list for 1815.' In Appendix II of Fillmore 
Norfleet's book Suffolk in Virginia, is the listing for Cowling & Dri- 
ver, cabinetmakers, dated 1811. While the author does not explain 
where he obtained this information, Suffolk is the only large town in 
Nansemond County." In 1816 Cowling appears for the first time on 
the personal propert}' tax list for the city of Richmond." 

On coming to Richmond, Cowling entered a cabinetmaking 
communit}' which was seeking to come to grips with the specializa- 
tion and increased production from the furniture business in the 
northeast. For an understanding of the first four decades of the cabi- 


netmaking tradition of Richmond city, the reader should consult 
Aline Zeno's thesis, "The Furniture Craftsmen of Richmond, 
1780-1820".'" In the 14 September 1816 issue of the Richmond Com- 
mercial Compiler, Camillus Taylor, turner, advertised that he could 
be found at Mr. W. Cowling's shop on the corner ol F and 13th 
Streets." In a letter of February 1817 to Joseph Prentis ot Suflolk, 
Virginia, Cowling stated that he and fellow Richmond cabinetmak- 
er, Robert Poore, was going to purchase $i,ooo-$i,i50 worth of ma- 
hogany.'- Thus began Cowling's long friendship with Robert Poore. 
In his will. Cowling made the following request of his executors, 

I therefore direct, that my executors will in all transactions that they may 
have with my esteemed friend Robert Poore, acts towards him with all 
lenic}' and indulgence, and do at his instance any act concerning my se- 
curiryships and endorsements for him that will not in their opinion in- 
jure my estate." 

The 1819 Richmond Directory lists Cowling's shop on the west 
side of 13th Street between F and 7th Street." Cowling's 1820 policy 
with the Mutual Assurance Society (presented in figures 4 and 4a) 
describes the property as "A Ware Room & Dwelling house - Walls 
Brick Roof Slate 3 Stories high' and "B Cabinet Maker's Shop Walls 
Brick Roof Slate 3 Stories high". Next to parcel "A " was the brick 
tenement of Robert Poore." While the term "Ware Room" is used in 
describing parcel "A", there is no record in Cowling's papers that he 
was selling Northern furniture in a cabinet warehouse. For more in- 
formation, see Forsyth Alexander's article, "Cabinet Warehousing in 
the Southern Atlantic Ports, 1783-1820. "'" 

He continued his cabinetmaking business in Richmond until his 
death in 1828.'" By a codicil to his will Cowling provided the follow- 
ing directions to his executors: 

It is my will & desire that my Cabinet-making business shall be carried 
on after my death as now under the direction of my said executors, untill 
the stock on hand shall be worked up into furniture, if they think it pru- 
dent so to do."^ 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 


residiiis 111 A,'U....^ 

. - -.J county of 'f-^.... du liorebr tleclari! lor 

'■ Sooiclj igainit fln, o„ buUdinga of Iho Stole of Tirginin, - . .(. , liuililio^ 

do bei'clijr dooluru Ulid offirui, lliul y lioM thr nbove minlioncd building.. Willi llic bud oi. i.liichjt'. 

or-.biillbe'inriut<!deW»lirrc, oi.d lh«t •;» ■ beir, oiid iiTKnTitiiriilildc bj. ..b.eno onil ud- 

licro in Ibo con.litniion. rub-, nod rogulrilion., »bicb ore flrMdj, or inaj bcnioTli-r lie ...iHbli.bod bv 
mojorily of tbo iniarod, in prr.on, or by ro],re.cnuu.o.. or bj o m.jorily of tlio properly iniurcd, re- 

C^ienlou Miller by the perioni Ibcmirlcen, or iheir proiy duly uthoriied, or ibcir depotv. u eiubliahed by 
., ,1 iiiiv ueiieml mooting lo be beld by Ibo .iiid A.uroncr Sorirl, . or .bich «re or lier^.ftor ni.y be e.lob. 
Iished by Ibu 8undiugCoiniuillee ofllio Bocielv. Wilne« ,..- bund and icdL tbitf^ f, .,/ .I»v 

tSr //:../ /Aft'. ' ■ '7' . "'^ 

WE, ilie uiidorwrilton, being eocU of ui Freebolder^ decUro Hud aBnii,Vj|i!t«t Uaye-'ernmimru.e oboro 

inoniionedlmildinK. of ,;,- /.'.'Y ■ (U- -i^ ■ ' _ „,d „ .„ of opinion 

;biit>.'.. would coil in cnib 'V' K-^^-iiJ&^y i^ Joll.iw 

lobuild lUe .am.., „nd ibal no- {af.;,.r 11,= dedueUon of , ?,7./^„, 'ThIm. fl. L'. "" 

repair). , arlu.lly »orll, ^.v *„...,„„•— ^ . ^ dollar, in rt.dy' money. 

u aboyeipocifiod 10 Ibebct of our kiio«lcd|!« and belief. Al niliun our lundi 
Ii»...j™,.jj.i.~i,»h./,i»o. /„„/,) ,, J 

ti-ir^— -_ } -.,. ... \\' r.. 


1 t ^— 1 p- ... 

4, Mutual A.ssurance SocieU' policy for Willi.s Cowling's .shop, 1820, Mu- 
tual Assurance Societ)- (Accession 30177). Declaration and Revaluations 
oF Assurance, Richmond, Virginia 1796-1867, Volume S7- Policy 14--S for 
Willis Cowling. Courtesy of Business Records Collection, Archives Research 
Services. The Libniiy of Virginia. Richmond. 

* »e htUdingt hertin dacribtd ^» .^_ I 

^%///..^ W^'^—-^. 
M^.^ ^.>^ 

±^ , y?,^/" 





4a. Detail of sketch of shop on 1820 Mutual Assurance Society policy for 
Willis Cowling. Courtesy of Business Records Collection, Archives Research Ser- 
vices, The Library of Virginia, Richmond. 

Cowling's executors continued to operate the shop after his cieath.''' 
The executor had problems with the estate, however, and the Hus- 
tings Court of the cir\' of Richmond appointed a special commis- 
sioner to settle the estate.^" Cities in Virginia which have been incor- 
porated by act of the legislature have their own court of record 
which is called a Hustings court. The equivalent court of record for 
a county was the county court. Upon finishing his task, the special 
Commissioner would have brought his accounts and any accompa- 
nying paperwork into court to be examined by the justices. If the 
justices found the Commissioners accounts correct, they would 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 


order the estate settled and a record of the settlement would be 
recorded. Normally any accompanying papers were not retained by 
the court. As previously stated, in the case of the estate of Willis 
Cowling this did not happen, and his business papers remained in 
the Richmond City court records now housed at the Library of Vir- 
ginia.'' The papers cover the years 1818-1828. 


Most of the correspondence from northern cabinetmakers and 
merchants to Cowling was from New York Cit)', with the rest of the 
correspondence being from Newark, New Jersey," and Philadel- 
phia.'' The letters concern wood, hardware, and upholstery materi- 
als that Cowling ordered from his northern contacts. Some letters 
indicate that Cowling sent Virginia coah'^ and tobacco'" to be sold in 
northern markets. Zeno, in her thesis on Richmond furniture crafts- 
men, describes cabinetmakers who sold other items besides the fur- 
niture they made as "merchant craftsmen. "'" 

Letters and accounts also document the shipping oi logs, boards, 
veneers, and hardware from New York cabinetmakers and merchants 
to the South. Mahogany was the wood most frequently mentioned in 
correspondence, as seen in the following letter oi 20 September 1820. 

New York 20th Sept. 1820 

I wrote to you a tew days Since that I should wait 2 or 3 days before I 
bought your Mahogany In hopes of an Auction we have had one oi very 
Small & Comon wood but I could not buy any of it to suit 

I have bought for you 16 logs about 3000 ft at 11 Cts which in my 
opinion is Cheaper wood than the Comon wood I sent you before this is 
all good Size wood &C in my opinion is just about what you want. 

It is to be Shipped in the Schooner Native expect to Sail on thursday. 

The freight is to be 6 Cts but there is two large RufFage logs for which 
you of cours will only V2 as I ame to have the freight at the neat measure- 
ment which will not give him more than 4V2 on not that the parcel of 


wood bought is the Remainins of a Cargo of wood that was Imported by 
the Same merchant as the first & for which he sold out at 15 Cts Some of 
the logs not so good as some oi yours I have no doubt you will be pleased 
when I send the bill of Lading I will send Numbers Measurement bill [etc] 

I have not got the bill yet & of course dont know what it will be 
Should want more on any particular kind let me know & I will look out 
for it at leisure. 

I dont know when Mahogany has been so Scarce in Merchants hands 
as at present. 

Mr. W. Cowling From your Obt. St. In haste 

Isaac Cross" 

Typically the letters mention the sale of mahogany at auction, and 
the sawing of mahogany logs into boards or veneers. A letter of 27 
May 1820 from Isaac Cross of New York City describes the measur- 
ing of mahogany logs and the use of catalogues at auctions.-" New 
York being a major port was able to provide a greater quantity and 
selection of goods such as mahogany. Other letters document the 
use of maple as seen in the following excerpt from Cross's letter of 20 
January 1820. While maple is found in the South and there are 
pieces of southern furniture made out of local maple, the wood is 
more commonly found in northeastern United States. 

As to Maple Posts [or] any Post they are an article that. Can be furnished 
much better At some seasons than others 

At the present Season of the year there is no way to get plain or Curled 
Maple Except from the Lumberyards whereas In the Summer Season we 
have Men from the Country coming Round with Posts turned both 
Plain & Curled & Can make generally better Bargains with them than 
any other persons"'' 

In 1820, Cowling purchased from the estate of Richmond mer- 
chant,"' Charles Whitlock $173.68 worth of furniture hardware." 
The merchandise purchased consisted of such items as brass bed cas- 
tors, commode knobs, brass desk locks, and claw castors. An ac- 
count booklet in box i of the Cowling papers shows that he bought 
furniture hardware for the period March to December 1827'' from 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 

Richmond merchant Robert Johnson." In 1829 Johnson sueci the ex- 
ecutors of Cowlings estate tor furniture hardware purchased from 
him for the period January to August 1828.'" CowHng purchased 
hardware from New York as well as trom local merchants. Isaac 
Cross sent Cowling lerrils, bed joints, and lion's paw casters. The 
term "ferril" or ferrule is described as "a ring or cap usually of metal 
put around the end of a post, cane or the like to prevent splitting." 
Cowling would have used these on the bottom oi a turned leg, the 
turned foot of a desk or chest oi drawers. Cowling purchased from 
John Dolan brass knobs, bureau locks, lions paw casters, and four 
different patterns for knobs. The following excerpt from Isaac Cross' 
letter of i January 1820" is an example of furniture hardware pur- 
chased by Cowling from New York. 

New York ist Jany 1820 

On Saturday I rec' the bill of the last lott ot Mahogany bought tor you 
& Shipped by the Angen [?] The ferrils you wrote for so long Since is 
Shipped at last but was not Finished until Saturday. I can allways buy fer- 
rils without trouble but they are Imported & Lacquered those Sent to 
you are made here & not Lacquered, the cause of keeping you so long 
out oi them was the maker oi them makes patent grates & I could not 
get them betore Should you want more you Can have as many as you 
want either Imported or made here 

. . . Should you want more lerrils at any time let me know which you 
like Lackquerd or not those not Lackquerd Can be Rubbed off the best it 
they Stand any time unsold. 

Letters and accounts trom the Cowling papers document that he 
was able to otfer his customers upholstered furniture. There is no ev- 
idence that Cowling was trained as an upholsterer, and he may have 
subcontracted this work out. In 1816, William Ritter, a Richmond 
cit)' upholsterer, advertised that he could "be tound at Mr. Robert 
Poore's, or Mr. Willis Cowling's, Cabinet-Makers, 13th street. "" He 
purchased trom Isaac Cross ot New York the toUowing materials: 
curled hair, springs, and hair cloth (a bill of lading from Cross to 


Cowling is presented in figure 5). From John Dolan Cowling pur- 
chased webbing and hair cloth. The following excerpt from John 
Dolan's letter of 19 January 1826 provides an example of the uphol- 
stery materials available to Cowling in New York. 

I have no 24 in hair Cloth but but I sent you 26 in in the place of 24 in 
In March next I expect a large asortmt of hair Cloth & Webbing when it 
arrives I will send the Cloth that you now order. I have sent to England 
For some Figd. Cloth so that I am in hopes that I will be able to Keep a 
Supply o{ it. ' 

Cowling's papers cast an entrepreneurial light on cabinetmakers' 
activities during this period. While Isaac Cross consistently appeared 
on the New York city directories as a cabinetmaker, his purchase of 
furniture materials for Cowling seems characteristic of a merchant. 
In the case of New York cabinetmaker John T. Dolan, he is listed in 
the New York City directory in 1816 as a hardware merchant."* 
Cowling had Virginia coal and tobacco sold in New York, and the 
evidence suggests that he served as middleman to rural Virginia cab- 
inetmakers, supplying them with imported goods and materials. 
The business activities of Cowling and his New York colleagues ex- 
emplify how cabinetmakers moved from artisan to merchant (which 
is mentioned by Charles Montgomery in his book, American Furni- 
ture: The Federal Period jp ) . 

As previously mentioned. Cowling's papers document the ship- 
ping of raw materials from northern cabinetmakers and merchants to 
the South. A similar situation has been documented by Kathleen 
Catalano for Philadelphia cabinetmakers for the period 1820— 1840."' 
Jason Busch in his thesis on furniture patronage in antebellum 
Natchez has documented the shipping of furniture parts from Pitts- 
burgh and New York to Natchez.^' The shipment of pre-made furni- 
ture parts from New York and Newark, New Jersey, to southern cabi- 
netmakers is a logical extension of the trade in raw materials and 
other supplies. Letters to Cowling document the practice of buying 
parts of furniture that were already finished. Isaac Cross of New York 
sent Cowling turned posts, presumably to be used for bed posts.'- 



■ if^<^ 

5. Bill ot lading from 

Isaac Cross to Willis ,, ^iirxT im t /-i- jl jf 

„ . Latham Clark of- Newark, New Jersey sent Cowling sideboard reet, 
Cowline;, 1820. Cirv oi ,, , r . r r , '» /• 1 1 w? 1 1 r vt a/ r 

„. , , .„,.,,. scrolled reet, and arms ror soras. Michael Walsh or New York 

Richmond, Willis i • 1 1 j -n 

^ ,. n „ shipped Cowline paws for bureaus and sideboards, pillars and paws 

Cowling Papers, Box , . 

P I 1 o c t k tor tables, and paws and wings for sofas."^ At least one other Rich- 

1820. Courtesy of Local mond cabinetmaker was also engaged in purchasing pre-finished 

Records Collection, items. John T. Dolan's letter of 24 June 1825 to Cowling mentions 

Archives Research Ser- sending carved work to Robert Poore (an example of carved work at- 

vices. The Library of tributed to Poore is presented in figures 6, 6a, and 6b).'" 

Virginia, Richmond. These pre-finished parts and carving raise some important ques- 

tions. Why did Cowling not have this work done in Richmond? 
Were Richmond craftsmen not able to do the work at a cheaper 
price? Also large cities like New York were capable of supporting craft 
specialization such as carvers, upholsterers, turners, etc.^" Zeno, in 
her thesis on Richmond furniture, states that New York furniture was 
the standard by which other furniture was judged. Thus, a sense of 
style may have been a cause for importing pre-made parts from New 


6. Card Table attributed to 
Robert Poore, 1832. 
Mahogany and mahogany 
veneer, hoa zgVs", woa 36", 
DOA 1SV2". Richmond, Vir- 
ginia. Courtesy of Jane 
Southall Bowles; photograph 
courtesy ofSumpter Priddy 
III, Inc. 

York.' In 1817, Samuel Mordecai of Richmond wrote the following 
to his sister, Rachel, concerning the purchase of furniture from Rich- 
mond for their brother Moses in Raleigh, North Carolina, "My ad- 
vice would be to obtain them from New York, where they would be 
obtained better and cheaper, with certainty of conveyance."^'' 

In the area of provenance there are also questions to be answered. 
If the turning and carving on some of Cowling's work was Irom 
New York, might not his work be erroneously attributed to a New 
York cabinetmaker? Cowling's involvement in the intercoastal furni- 
ture trade consisted of buying pre-made parts of furniture. There is 
no evidence in his papers that he retailed northern-made furniture 
in Richmond. 

Were Cowling's dealings with New York merchants and cabinet- 
makers r)'pical of Richmond and Virginia? Answers to this question 
are found in the Cowling Papers. Letters from Isaac Cross and John 
T. Dolan document that veneers and carved work were sent to Rich- 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 


6a. Detail ot leg and toot carving on 
card table attributed to Robert Poore. 
Courtesy of jane Soiithall Bowles; 
photograph courtesy of Sumptcr Priddy 
III Inc. 

mond cabinetmaker Robert Poore.*" In his letter of 8 
December 1821, Isaac Cross mentions that Richmond 
cabinetmaker George Hendree'" purchased veneers 
from him and wood from mahogany yard owner Jean 
Marie Joseph Labatut." On 16 July 1826 George Hen- 
dree wrote Cowling from New York asking if he want- 
ed him to buy mahogany lor him.'' Isaac Cross in his 
letter ot 6 August 1822 mentioned William Ritter, a 
Richmond upholsterer being in New York. In the 
same letter Cross stated that D. H. Sumner ot Suffolk, 
Virginia, on Cowling's recommendation, had pur- 
chased material from him.'* The following letter from 
John T. Dolan documents his connection with the 
firms of Potts & Sully and Winston & Duiguid. In 
June of 1818 cabinetmaker, Chester Sully, and J. Potts 
opened a lumberyard in Richmond.'^ Winston & 
Duiguid were cabinetmakers in Lynchburg, Virginia. "" 

Mr. Cowling will confer a particular favor on John T. 
Dolan by inquiring ot Mr. Mayo tor the Papers connected 
with my suit against Potts & Sully so that I may sue one 
ot the Firm now in this Ciry. I believe Mr. Mayo holds the 
Note that I had against them. Mr. C. Will iurther oblige 
me by ascertaining how my demand against Winston & 
Duiguid of Lvnchburgh stands at present I sent the acct 
above 2 \'ears since to J.D. Urquhart Esqr. tor Collection 
it is upwards ot a year since he informed me that he got 
judgment against them & expected to place the Nt pro- 
ceeds to my Cr. in the Bank subjectto my Dft. since then I 
have not heard horn him. I would be willing to make 
some sacrifice to have the business settled. 

Mr. Cowlings attention to this business will much 
oblige his obt. Servt. 

John T. Dolan 

New York 9th May 1825'" 



WINTER 2001 

6b. Profile of toot on card 
table attributed to Robert 
Poore. Courtesy of Jane 
Southall Bowles; photograph 
courtesy of Sainpter Priddy 
III, Inc. 

It is interesting to note that Lynchburg cabinetmaker Samuel 
Duiguid's account book has an entry dated 27 May 1825 for a trip to 
New York."' CowHng's dealings with New York merchants and cabi- 
netmakers was not unusual for the more successful cabinetmaking 
shops in Richmond and other areas of Virginia. 


New York merchants and cabinetmakers supplied Cowling with 
wood, furniture hardware, and upholstery material. Cowling, in turn, 
provided a similar service for cabinetmakers in Virginia. The Lynch- 
burg firm of Winston & Duiguid requested two gallons of varnish 
from Cowling." Lynchburg cabinetmaker James Frazier purchased 
mahogany from Cowling."' William Sumner, probably of the Suffolk 
cabinetmaking firm of Copeland & Sumner,"" requested mahogany 
for tables and hair cloth for sofas."' W J. Darden of Smithfield asked 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 


Cowling for hair cloth"' and moss to stuff an easy chair."' The follow- 
ing letter of Shelby Johnson of Halifax Courthouse, Virginia provides 
a vivid description of the range of goods Cowling was called on to 
provide for cabinetmakers in the towns and countryside of Virginia. 

Halifax C. House September 28 1822 
Dear Sir, 

I hope you will excuse me for not wrighting to you Before now when I 
was in richmond I told you I could get you some Beeas wax and wood 
send it to you by the first opportunity I engaguied 200 weight of a north 
Carolina man in which he was to Deliver in sixty days and he is not done 
it yet and that is the Cause I have not sint you your money. Though I 
have not give out looking for the wax yet as he is a respectable man il it 
comes I will send it to your care and you can keep as much of it as you 
want and sell the Balance For me the Price oi it is 30 cts per pound. 

Sir I inclose to you twenty dollars Virginia money which I wont you 
to pay your self out of the money I sent you to send me abut S20. worth 
of mahogany I wont one peace of 2 inch Sandamigo Suitable for side- 
board legs and I wont vou to send me some of your hansomeist venears 
for Beaureau Fronts [?] them to cut in two lengths and I wont you to 
send me one plank of sandamigo '2 inch thick and one [?] Bay wood and 
one inch plank of sandamigo and some hansom Banding and I wont you 
to send me two of carved stump feet to imitation ot a lions foot. 

Sir I have engaged to do the work that these things cals for in a short 
time and you will oblige me By sending them the Balance in Which I shal 
ow you after you send me these things you will make out your account 
and send it by the former Mr. Hitson and it the wax does not come in a 
weak or two I will send you the money - 1 wood of sent more money Now 
But not nowing the waggon was a going to start but a hour Before hand as 
times is hard I hope your charge will be modderate tor these articcles. I 
want you to pack them up securely as they are apt to get ingured 

Sir I Remain with due Respect your most obedient Friend 

Shelby Johnson 

Sir I expect to be in Richmond in tour or five weaks""* 



Because of the scarcity of American furniture price lists, especially 
southern ones, the discovery of the Cowling price lists is significant. 
One of the lists is dated 1822, and the other two lists are undated (see 
Appendix I, II and III). The three lists provide the price paid jour- 
neymen for making a specific furniture form. All three lists are similar 
in format: they list the type oi furniture, its base price, followed by 
the same form with extra features, and the cost. The lists for Appen- 
dix II and Appendix III show an original price and a revised price for 
certain items. The two undated lists are a list of prices paid by Robert 
Poore and Willis Cowling "for Journey work." The fact that both 
Cowilng's and Poore's names appear on the price list probably indi- 
cates more of a friendly working relationship than a partnership. 
However, the fact that James Thurston sued Cowling and Poore to- 
gether in 1826 may indicate that they had, by that time, formed some 
sort of partnership.'" The need for established price lists may indicate 
labor problems between master cabinetmakers and journeymen in 
Richmond. The description of the furniture on these price lists shows 
that Cowling and Poore were producing furniture in the Empire 
style. The listing of furniture forms such as Grecian couches, sofas, 
and easy chairs indicate that Cowling either hard an upholsterer in 
his shop or was contracting his work out to an upholsterer. 


The Cowling papers are significant for students oi the southern 
decorative arts for several reasons. First, they contain one of the few 
known southern price lists. The items listed indicate that Richmond 
was aware of the current Empire style of furniture found in New 
York and other major east coast cities. The upholstered furniture on 
the list indicates that Cowling had access to an upholsterer. This fact 
and the numerous references in the Cowling papers to veneers and 
carved furniture parts reflect the specialization in the furniture mak- 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 67 

ing that had occurred in cities in early-nineteenth-century America. 

Second, the papers show the interaction between urban and rural 
cabinetmakers in early nineteenth century Virginia. New York cabi- 
netmakers/merchants Isaac Cross and John Dolan supplied Cowling 
with raw materials and pre-made hirniture parts. Cowling in turn 
assumed the role of cabinetmaker/merchant in providing the same 
goods to his fellow cabinetmakers in the interior of Virginia. 

Third, the papers provide documentation oi a cabinetmakers en- 
trepreneurial activities. Through his New York connections such as 
Isaac Cross, Cowling sold Virginia coal and tobacco. Cabinetmakers 
who could financially manage it engaged in entrepreneurial activities 
to further increase their capital."' Eighteenth century Charleston 
cabinetmaker, Thomas Elte, increased his income by owning rental 
property and a plantation." 

Finally, the papers concern southern cabinetmakers and northern 
furniture. In the nineteenth century southern cabinetmakers were 
having to compete with northern imports. Some southern cabinet- 
makers became retailers of northern furniture while others moved to 
towns further inland to escape this competition."' Cowling seemed 
to have taken a middle of the road approach. He continued to oper- 
ate his cabinetmaking shop, but imported raw materials and pre- 
made parts from the North. Thus regional stylistic features that ex- 
isted in Richmond lurniture would begin to give way to the national 
Empire sr\'le in furniture."" In conclusion it is hoped that this article 
will encourage others to further research the points mentioned above 
as well as identify furniture by Cowling and other early-nineteenth- 
century Richmond furnituremakers. 

J.CHRISTIAN KO LB E is the Senior Reseiirch Archivist at The 
Library of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia. 



A list ot prices paid by Robert Poorc and Willis C'owling for Journey work as 

French Sideboard 6 feet i I LONG four readed collums 40.00 
backboard to corresponde with the Front 

Plane Streight front ditto 4 door Back bord 25.00 

Extra for them when the legs are readed 3.00 

Small Ditto three doorsi 6.00 

Extra for cases on the tops 4.00 

Plane secretary deski 8.00 

Ditto when Pannill end Extra 2.00 

Ditto Do. When with collums & collums & legs readed 24.00 

Plane Bureau 3F 9I long 3F 9I high solid ends 10.00 

Extra tor 2 small drawers in the upper part 1.50 

Small Bureau 8,00 
all desks & Bureaus to be cockbeaded 

Chinea doore Bookcase 12.00 

Plane Ditto g.oo 

French Wardrobe 20.00 

D= . with shelves only 12.00 

Double wardrobe 3 drawrs below pannel doors & 4 Trays 25.00 

Bedstead of all Highpost 3.00 

circular washstand 4.00 

Extra for stracher .50 

Square ditto common sise 2.00 

Extra for Backboard i.oo 

Candle stand 2.50 

4 feet 6 Inch Dining table 5$ 14.00 
Ends 4F 61 to ditto S4.50 each 

4 feet Ditto 4s Ends to do 4$ 12.00 

Tea Table i Drawr r4.oo 

deduct for draw .75 

Pillar & claw Tea Do. Single pilar lO.OO 
Ditto Extra for 4 Pillars 

card tables the same price 3.00 

Plane card tables 12.00 

Double case chine press. 18.00 

Plane china D=« 4 doors for [?] 25.00 

Grecian couches 18.OO 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 69 

Plane sofas ii.oo 

Easy chairs 4.00 

Price for Reading Table legs i/- 

D°° for Reading stand chair i/- 

Do for Sidebord collum 1/6 — 

Do Do Stump Foot 9/' — 

Do. Front ot Side board leg 1/ 

[on the outside wrapper] 

Panne! and Bureau with halt Column Reeded S13.50 

Grecian Couch halt back Twisted Reed Front & Back ?o— 

Column tront Sideboard with i Columens & cases 

Twisted Reed ^'i.oo 


Richmond Oct. loth 1822 

Sideboards 6 Feet 3 Long 4 collums 4 doors $30.00 

with plinth readed collums 25 

Ditto 6 Feet Long 4 doors 2 Colums & plinth 16 20.00 

Ditto 5 Feet Long 3 Doors & 2 drawrs 

Readed half collum 12 15.00 

Ditto plane without collums 10 14.00 

Single pillar & claw dining table 4 Feet 6 long with [leaves] 30.00 

to the End claws Readed 

Extra For reading the Tops 2.00 

Ditto for the same Kind without [leaves] to the End 2vOO 

Ditto Tea table Claw 8- 10.00 

Ditto card tables [?] 16 20.00 

Plain Card tables 10 12.00 

Plain Tea tables with i draw 4.00 

Deduct For a draw when none is made .~'s 

Dining Tables 4F 6l plane 13.50 

Do. D. 4 Feet Do. 

Single Dining table 4F 61 plane 

End 4.6 4.00 

Single Do. 4 plane 

Ends the Same 

[Wing] wardrobe with 4 doors 

3 draw & trays - door veneered & a Plane cornice 

French wardrobe with draws 18 and travs 










Ditto with Shelvs onlysi 2. oo 12.00 

Large double case wardrobe with 3 draws in the lower 22.00 

case and Trays in the upper 10 

Large China press For Side board 4 doors 10 25.00 

Book case sash doors 10 12.00 

Do. Without 8 9.00 

Plain Secretary panil Ends 16 18.00 

ditto with coUums 18 20.00 

Extra for 2 Top draws 1.50 2.00 

Bureaus with 4 draws Sollid end 7 8.00 

Ditto Panil 8 lo.oo 

Ditto collems 10 12.00 

Ditto with collims &: l draws on li 13-50 

the top 

it is understood the Feet & collums are to be readed if required 

Circular washstand with drawr 3.50 4.00 

squar Ditto with a draw 1.50 2.00 

extra for Back board 75 1.00 

candlestand 2.00 2.50 

common china press with in 18 20.00 

1 cases 

Greecian couch halfback read 30.OO 

do. Couch Back read & tront is 18.00 

Readed or Venered 

Square Sophas 4 legs in tront 10 12.00 

Easy chairs 4.00 

Reading table legs 9/- 16 

do stand Claws 9/- 16 

sideboard - collms 

when in One Extra collem 1/6 1 25 

stump feet g/"* 12 Vi 

Front of sideboard legs 9/- 16 

High post bedstead of all Kinds 3.00 

French Do. 2.00 

Trunnel Do. 1.80 2.00 

It is to be understood that all work is to be done in the best manner in point of 
workmanship and I am willing to pay the prices specified on this bill for one year 
and if terms should call for an alteration either tor the better or worse then to be 


W. Cowling 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 




A list of prices paid by Robert Poore and Willis Cowling for Journey work as fol- 

French Side boards 6 feet 2 inches Long $30.00 

four readed Collums back bound to correspond with the front 

Collumn front Side boards with two collums and Cases Twisted Read 2S.00 

Plane front ditto 4 doors backboard 20.00 

extra for them when the Legs are Readed 3.00 

Small ditto with Three doors " 14.00 

extra tor cases on he Tops " 400 

Plane Secretary Desk iS.oo 

ditto when extra pannel Ends i-oo 

ditto ditto when with Collumns 

Collums and Legs readed & 2 small draws 24.00 

Pannel end Bureau with half 12.00 

Collumn readed with 2 small draws 13.00 

cases on the top extra 3°° 

Plane Bureau 3 ft 9 in Long 3 k 3 in high Plain Panill Ends 

extra for 2 Small draws in the 

upper part 

Small Bureau 8.00 

all desks and Bureau's are to be cock beaded 

China Door Book Cases " " 12.00 

plane ditto Do. 900 

French Wardrobe 20.00 

Ditto with Shelves only 12.00 15.00 

double Wardrobes 3 draws below 

Pannel doors & 4 Trays 22.00 

Bed Steads of all high posts 300 

Circular wash Stands 4°° 

extra for Stracher -SO 

Square ditto Common Si^e 2.00 

extra for Back Board i-oo 

Candle Stand i-50 

4 feet 6 Inch dining tables $5.00 

End 4 ft 6 in. do. @ 4.50ea 14.00 

4 feet Ditto $4.00 Ends to Ditto (?' $4.00 Ea 12.00 

Tea Table with one drawer 4-00 

deduct for drawer 4/6 75 

Pillar & Claw Tea ditto Single Pillar 10.00 

ditto extra for four Pillars soo 

Card Tables the Same price 


Plane Card Tables iz.oo 

Double Case China Press 18.00 

Plane China Ditto 4 Doors for zvoo 

Grecian Couch half Back Twisted 18.00 
Read front & Back 
do. couches 

plane Sofas i[>] 

Easey Chairs 4.00 

price for reading Table Legs i/- 17 

Do. Do. Reading Stand Chair i/- 17 

Do. Do. Seide board Column 1/6 25 
Do. D. Stump foot [9^] 

12 [v.] 

Do. Front of side board letrs i/- 17 


1. Alice Bohmer Rudd, ed. Sbockoc Hill Caiietfry, Register of Internments. April 10. iS22~ 
December ji. i8$o. vol I. Washington, D.C.: A.B. Rudd, i960: 6. 

2. Census for 1810, Washington, Gates & Seaton 1821, reprinted by Norman Ross Publish- 
ing Inc, 1990. 

3. Marianne P. B. Sheldon. "Richmond, Virgmia: The Town and Henrico Countrv' to 
1810." Doctor.d dissertation, Univcrsif)' of Michigan, 1975: 333, 337-38, 342, 344, 366. 476-77, 

4. William Couper. "Couper Famil}-." Virguua Magazine of History and Biography S9 (lan- 
uary 19S1): 127. 

5. Webb-Prentis Collection, Accession No. 4316, Box No. 6. Folder 1812-1S26, Willis 
Cowling to Joseph Prentis, Jr., Manuscript Department, University- of Virginia Archives, 
Charlottesville, Virginia (hereinafter as UVA). 

6. Isle of Wight County, Virginia, Will Book No. 15, 1817-1821, 542. 

7. Personal Property Taxes, Nansemond Count)', 1815. Library of Virginia, (henceforth cit- 
ed as LVA), Archives Division, Richmond, Virginia. 

8. Filmore Norfleet. Suffolk in Virginia. Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, 1974: 177. 

9. Personal Propert)' Taxes, Richmond Cit)', 1816, LVA. 

10. Aline H. Zcno. "The Furniture Craftsmen of Richmond, Virginia, 1780-1820." M.A. 
thesis, Unviersity ot Delavvate, 1987: 2S-30, 32, si. 65-68, 71-79, 84, 86-88. 

11. Richmond Commercial Compiler, 14 September 1816, 1-4. 

12. Webb-Prentiss Collection, Accession No. 4316, Box No. 6, Folder 1812-1816 letter of 
1817 from Willis Cowling to Joseph Ptentis. UVA. 

13. Richmond City Flastings Corut, Will Book No. 4, 1824-1S28, p. 446. 

14. The Richmond Directory iSig. Richmond: John Maddox, 1819: 40 (hereafter cited as 
RCD. iSigi. 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 73 

15. Mutual Assurance Socien,- of Virginia, Declarations, Vol. S7. Polio,- No. 1475, LVA. 

16. Forsyth M. Alexander. "Cabinet Warehousing in rhe Southern Atlantic Porrs, 1783- 
iSio," Journal of Early Southern Decorative Am. Vol. XV, No. 2 (November 1989): 3, S, 13-16. 

17. Personal Papers, Centenary Methodist Church. Richmond, Virginia, Register of Classes 
i827-t837. Accession No. 15147, i. LVA. 

18. Richmond City Hustings Court, Will Book No. 4, 1824-1828, 447. 

19. Richmond City Hustings Court, Will Book No. 5, 1828-1831, 138-48. 

20. Ibid, 133. 

21. Richmond Cit)- Court Records, Willis Cowling Papers (hencelorth cited as CP). LVA. 

22. Latham Clark to Willis Cowling, 25 October 1825, CP, LVA. 

23. Robert West to Willis Cowling, 16 March 1821, CP, LVA. 

24. Isaac Cross to Willis Cowling, i January 1S20, 10 July 1820, 18 September 1820, 4 No- 
vember iSio, 25 May 1822; GifFord & Gourlay to Willis Cowling 5 Januar)' 182"; Gilford & 
Gourlay to Robert Poore 6 December 1826. CP, LVA. 

25. Isaac Cross to Willis Cowling, i Januar\' 1S20, 18 September 1S20, 15 May 1S21, 28 July 
1821, CP, LVA. 

26. Zeno, 71. 

27. Isaac Cross to Willis Cowling, 20 September 1820, CP, LVA. 

28. Isaac Cross to Willis Cowling, 27 May 1820. CP, LVA. 

29. Isaac Cross to Willis Cowling, 20 January 1820, CP, LV.'\. 

30. RCD, iSiQ. 73. 

31. Account of Willis Cowling with the estate ot Charles Whitlock, dec. 22 November 
1820, CP. LVA. 

32. Box I, Folder, 21 March iS2~-iS December 1S2-. CP. L\A. 

33. RCD, 1S19. 52. 

34. Richmond City, Hustings Court, Suit Papers, Box 125, January-May 1829, i June 1S29, 
Johnson vs. Cowling, CP, LVA. 

35. Isaac Cross to Willis Cowling, i January 1820, CP, LVA. 

36. Richmond Commercial Compiler, 14 Seprember 1816, 1—4. 

37. John Dolan to Willis Cowling, 19 January 1826, CP, LVA. 

38. Information on Isaac Cross and John T. Dolan from New York City Directories pro- 
vided to the author by Martha W. Rowe, MESDA Research Associare, 15 October 1997. 

i9. Charles Montgomer\'. American Furniture.- The Federal Period. New York: Viking, 
1966: 13. 

40. Karhleen M. Cat.iIano. "Cabinetmakmg in Philadelphia 1820-1840, Transition from 
Craft to Industn,'." Winterthur Portfolio n (1979): S2-84. 

41. Jason Busch. "Furniture Patronage and Consumption in Antebellum Natchez, Missis- 
sippi." M..^. thesis, Universiry of Delaware, 1998: 19, 31-33. 

42. Isaac Cross ro Willis Cowling. 4 February 1820, March 1820, CP, LVA. 

43. Latham Clark to Willis Cowling, 25 October 1825, CP, LVA. 

44. Michael Walsh to Willis Cowling, 12 January 1828. 27 April 1828, CP, LVA. 

45. John T. Dolan to Willis Cowling, 24 June 1825, CP, LVA. 

46. Montgomen,'. 12. 

47. Zeno, 3!. 

48. Kenneth Joel Zogry. " "Plain and Handsome": Documented Furnishings at Mordecai 
House, 1780-1830." Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Vol. XY, No. 2 (November 
1989): 96. 

49. Isaac Cross to Willis Cowling, ^ April 1820; John T. Dolan to Willis Cowling. 24 June 
1825, CP, LVA. 


50. RCD, iSig, 50. 

51. Isaac Cross to Willis Cowling, 8 December i,S;i, CI', LVA; Kenneth Scott, ed. luirly 
New York N.uimilizatwni. 1-92-1840. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogicil Publishing Cximpany, 
1981: 3t. 

51. George Hendree to Willis Cowling, 16 July 1826, CP, LVA. 

53. Isaac Cross to Willis Cowling, 6 August 1822, C"P, LVA. 

54. Ronald L. Hurst. "Cabinetmakers and Related Tradesmen m Norfolk, Virginia: 
1770-1820." M.A. thesis, College of William and Mary, 1989: 138-44. Richmond City, Hus- 
tings Court, Suit Papers, April 1819, Bulloch vs. Pom & Sully. David Bulloch sues Potts & Sully 
for rent of a warehouse. Judgment executed on rwenrj'-one gilt framed looking glasses, nine 
Dutch looking glasses, forty-three mahogany framed looking glass, one brass top stove, and 
two pere[?]il! iron stove. 

55. Rosa F. Yancey. Lynchburg and Its Neighbors. Richmond: J.W. Fergusson & Son, 1935: 

56. John T. Dolan to Willis Cowling, 9 May 182s, CP, LVA. 

57. Diuguid's Burial Records, Diuguid Furniture Co. (1820-1830) Accession 132402b, Cash 
Account entry for 27 May 1825, Jones Memorial Librar)', Lynchburg, Virginia. 

58. Winston & Diuguid to Willis Cowling, 27 October 1818, CP, LVA. 

59. Information on James Prazier from the MESDA Research Files provided to the author 
by Martha W. Rowe, MESDA Research Associate, 20 February 1991. Purchase of mahogany 
from Cowling found in William Bird to Willis Cowling, 18 October 1821, CP, LVA. 

60. U.S. 1820 Industrial Census For Virginia, Nansemond County, 211. 

61. William Sumner to Willis Cowling, 29 July 1825, CP, LVA. 

62. W.J. Darden to Willis Cowling, 31 May 1821, CP, LVA. 

63. W.J. Darden to Willis Cowling, 2 June 1821, CP, LVA. 

64. Shelby Johnson to Willis Cowling, 28 September 1822, CP, LVA. 

65. Richmond City, Hustings Court, Suit Papers, 13 Dec. 1826, Thursron vs. Poore & 
Cowling. Robert Poore, Willis Cowling bound to James Thurston for si, 122. 16. Judgment 
against Poore & Cowling amounting to $581.81. Following property seized: five sideboards, five 
hair sofas, sue bureaus, three setts dining tables, one pair of black horses and one Negro Julian. 

66. Montgomery, 13. 

67. John Christian Kolbe. "Thomas Elfe, Eighteenth Century Charleston Cabinetmaker." 
M.A. Thesis, University of South Carolina, 1980: 58-66, 87. 

68. Jonathan Prown. "A Cultural Analysis of Furniture-making in Petersburg, Virginia, 
17 6o-i%zo." Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts. Vol. XVIII, No. i (May 1992): 2, 82-83, 
85, 87-88, 104, iio-II, 113. Ronald L. Hurst and Jonathan Prown. Southern Furniture 
i68o-i8}o: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection. New York: Harrj- N. Abrams, Inc., 1997: 483. 

69. Hurst and Prown, 162-65, 487-89. 

WILLIS COWLING (1788-1828) 75 

Book Review 

Carl R. Lounsbury, Fro»i StateLiousc to Courthouse: An Arfhltectitr- 
al History of South Carolhui's Colonial Capitol and Charleston County 
Courthouse. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press. Pp. x, 113, 60 
b/w photos, II drawings and maps. Index. Cloth, $19.95. isbn 1-57003-378-1. 

Carl Lounsburys book is an apology tor the recently completed 
restoration of the Charleston Count)' Courthouse. It is an apolog}' 
in the classical sense of the being a reasoned defense of a position. 
The spectacular restoration of the building, reopened to the public 
in July 2001, is nothing to be sorry about. But these days any thor- 
oughgoing renovation of a significant historical structure needs to be 
justified — always to preservationists, frequently to the general pub- 

In September of 1989 hurricane Hugo hit Charleston head on, 
devastating the city. The storm did significant damage to the county 
courthouse — the subject oi the book under consideration — blowing 
off a large portion of its roof and letting the rain pour in, ruining 
many of the offices and courtrooms. The building was useless after 
the hurricane, and county court functions were moved to a 'tempo- 
rary' location in the adjoining municipality of North Charleston. At 
this writing that is where they mostly remain, more than twelve 
years later. 

In Mav of 1990 a recently formed group, the Friends oi the 
Charleston Count)' Courthouse, with the help of a grant from the 
National Trust for Historic Preservation, held a symposium in 
Charleston on the past and the hoped-for future of the courthouse. 
Carl Lounsbury was one of the speakers at that conference. In Janu- 


ary of 1991 the preservation architects John Milner Associates, of 
West Chester, Pennsylvania, presented their historic structure report 
on the courthouse to the local Charleston architectural firm of Liol- 
lio Associates, which had been retained by the Charleston County 
Council as consultants and architects for the courthouse. The rec- 
ommendation of this report was that the existing torm of the court- 
house be retained. This included an addition, as large as the original 
building, which had been put on its rear, or northern, side, in 1941. 
Concern for the future ot the courthouse led the Historic Charleston 
Foundation to invite a team of preservationists and architectural his- 
torians, including Lounsbury, his colleagues at Colonial Williams- 
burg, Willie Graham and Mark Wenger, and W. Brown Morton III 
of the Center for Historic Preservation at Mary Washington College 
to come back to Charleston in June of 1991 for the purpose of exam- 
ining the wrecked courthouse to see what evidence survived of its 
earlier form. After two hundred years of service as the county court- 
house, the building had been changed so many times that there 
seemed to be little in the way of original fabric that would give clues 
to its original appearance. Appearances are frequently deceiving, 
however, and as a result of the architectural investigations carried out 
by this army of Virginians a counter proposal was conceived to re- 
store the courthouse to its late eighteenth-century form. In August, 
1991 Lounsbury & Co. submitted their recommendations to the 
Charleston County Council. The battle over the restoration of the 
Charleston courthouse was about to be joined. 

Jonathan Poston of Historic Charleston Foundation writes in the 
Foreword of this book that "[fjurther information discovered by 
Lounsbury, with the assistance of staft members and interns of His- 
toric Charleston Foundation, has yielded the background for a full 
architectural and social history of the Charleston statehouse and 
courthouse" (ix). The implication is that this book contains that his- 
tory. This is not true. What Lounsbury has written is the results of a 
thorough, painstaking, and admirable examination of the surviving 


fabric of one of the most important eighteenth-century buildings in 
Charleston. This is an examination carried out by people who knew 
what it was that they were looking at and looking for. Lounsbury 
himself characterizes his book as a "concise architectural history" of 
"perhaps the most ambitious civic structure erected in the American 
colonies in the eighteenth century" (i). 

He begins with the laying of the cornerstone of the new colonial 
statehouse in 1753. The South Carolina Assembly had actually 
passed the act approving the construction of the building in June of 
1751, and it is revealing that Lounsbury does not begin with this act. 
Throughout the book there is a relentless concentration on the 
physical fabric ot the courthouse. Documentary evidence is used 
generously to interpret the use and meaning of the various spaces 
within the building, but Lounsburys main goal is to recover, as 
much as possible, the actual spaces themselves. 

He and his colleagues were able to do this because of hurricane 
Hugo. They had the singular opportunity, in the early 1990s, of be- 
ing able to go into a wrecked historic structure and tear away the ac- 
cumulated fabric to discover what survived underneath the shabby 
and shoddy twentieth-century surfaces. As the whole building was 
gutted, more and more of the original structure was revealed. 

The structure of the book is straightforwardly chronological, with 
four chapters addressing the building at its most significant points. 
The first chapter deals with the eighteenth-century statehouse from 
its inception in 1753 to the devastating fire of 1788. The second chap- 
ter covers the rebuilding of the building from 1788 to 1792 and its 
transformation into the Charleston district (later county) court- 
house. The third chapter is about the thoroughgoing transformation 
of the building into a Victorian courthouse in 1883. The final chap- 
ter examines the rebuilding of the structure after the great 
Charleston earthquake of 1886 and the subsequent motley rwenti- 
eth-century accretions. Finally there is a brief conclusion, which is in 
many ways simply a continuation of the foreword. 

Chapter One, "The Statehouse," is the longest since it sets the 



stage. The provinciality ot Charleston is emphasized, though it is 
also characterized as the grandest town in British North America. 
Lounsbury convincingly locates the new statehouse within the archi- 
tectural context of English provincial public buildings: courthouses, 
town, shire, and guild halls, etc. He considers the problem ot archi- 
tectural authorship of the statehouse. Because of the complete lack 
ot documents relating to the construction of the building, Louns- 
bury concludes that "[i]t is more than likely that the actual design 
decisions emerged from the deliberation of a special building com- 
mission" (23). His reasoning, that some oi the influential and well- 
known men who made up the board of commissioners ot the State- 
house are known to have had some experience with building, is not 
particularly compelling, and it would make this the only significant 
public building in Charleston not to be designed by an individual. 

Lounsbury appears to be ot two minds about this first iteration of 
the statehouse. On the one hand he considers the building to be un- 
exceptional, "a modest, provincial interpretation of metropolitan 
taste" (27). On the other hand he calls it a "landmark, heralding a 
more sophisticated application oi design ideas in public building . . . 
an achievement that projected a clear image oi the cultural aspira- 
tions of the province" {27). The dualism here is, oi course, a matter 
of context — London or the colonies — but one wonders if the men 
charged with overseeing the statehouse would have willingly seen 
themselves as quite so provincial as Lounsbury does. 

The best part of the first chapter, indeed the best part oi the book, 
is the physical evidence presented. Lounsbury writes about what was 
discovered in the examination of the building in 1991. Mark Wenger 
contributes conjectural elevations (26) and Willie Graham plan re- 
constructions (29). Like all visual representations they convey a level 
of certaint)' that is only tempered by a close reading of the text, but 
they are very helpful in imagining what the building looked like and 
how it functioned. 

Although Charleston is famous tor its architecture and cit}' plan 
there are actually very tew serious books about either one. One of 


the best of these is Ken Severenss book about Charleston architec- 
ture before the Civil War.' In its early pages he reproduces an en- 
graving from a colonial £20 note that he claims represents the 
Charleston statehouse (11). A comparison of this building with 
Wenger's restored elevation of the statehouse makes it clear, at least 
to this viewer, that Severens has mistaken the Charleston Exchange 
of 1767 for the 1750s statehouse. It would have been helpful if 
Lounsbury had noted this since one of the purposes of any historical 
study is (or at least ought to be) the correction of earlier published 
errors. Lounsbury has found physical evidence that the engaged por- 
tico on the south, or Broad Street, facade of the statehouse had 
columns that rested on low bases rather than on a one-story rusticat- 
ed basement as shown in the banknote engraving. 

Other surviving physical remains establish that the interior of the 
statehouse was divided roughly into thirds by a pair of transverse 
brick walls running north and south. This evidence, together with 
remnants and ghosts of the grand staircase that rose to the upper 
floor at the north wall, has allowed Lounsbury to reconstruct the 
central portion of the building as a ceremonial circulation core. Af- 
ter this, physical evidence disappears and the subdivisions of interior 
space are based on a thorough examination of documentary evi- 
dence, which allows Lounsbury to locate functions within the build- 
ing but does not provide any accurate guide to the size or configura- 
tion of the individual rooms. Willie Graham's plans are impressive, 
but suggest a degree of certainty about where rooms actually were 
and what their shapes were that is, perhaps, not quite warranted. 

In February of 1788 the colonial statehouse was gutted by fire. 
Two years before, the South Carolina legislature had voted to create 
a new capital city in the geographic center of the state, which techni- 
cally rendered the statehouse at the corner of Meeting and Broad 
streets in Charleston superfluous. Lounsbury's second chapter, enti- 
ded "The Courthouse, 1788-1883," is about the rebuilding of the 
statehouse after the 1788 fire and its second life as a county court- 
house. In fact, the Lowcountry members of the state assembly for 


the most part had been opposed to the creation of the new capital of 
Columbia and insisted on continuing to view Charleston as the 
unofficial state capital. They forced the legislature to agree to a cost- 
ly and cumbersome duplication of state services (offices in both Co- 
lumbia and Charleston), and many Charlestonians continued to 
think of and refer to the building, once it had been rebuilt after the 
fire, as the "statehouse" until well into the nineteenth century. 

At the time of the fire the statehouse/courthouse was the largest 
public building in South Carolina, but it was not large enough to 
function adequately. The commissioners appointed to oversee its re- 
construction decided to put on a third floor to gain additional space. 
This decision necessitated a significant redesign ol the exterior of the 
building, documentation for which, like the documentation for the 
construction of the original colonial structure, is almost wholly lack- 
ing. Traditionally the name of William Drayton has been associated 
with the design of the rebuilt courthouse. Drayton was the first 
judge of the Federal district court for South Carolina and was not 
identified as the designer of the new courthouse until the 1850s by 
the Charleston artist Charles Fraser.- Lounsbury is not so sure, and is 
more comfortable assuming that the new building was designed by a 
committee in a manner very similar to how he suggested the original 
building was created. 

If it was a committee that designed the enlarged courthouse it was 
a very effective one, for they created an extremely handsome build- 
ing. There is no question that this was the period in the structures 
history when it made the greatest architectural effect m the city. Its 
footprint remained the same as the statehouse of the 1750s since the 
exterior brick walls survived the fire and remained solid enough to be 
reused. The two interior partition walls that divided the building 
into thirds were also retained. The Broad Street facade continued to 
be the primary one, enriched with lateral niches and prominent bro- 
ken string courses and focused on an elaborate and impressive central 
portico, now raised on a rusticated basement so that it stretched to 
the top of the third story. Lounsbury once again emphasizes the 


mainstream architectural traditions of late eighteenth-century Britain 
that the design drew from. Whether one accepts his hypothesis of a 
building committee or not, the location of the newly designed court- 
house in the architectural mainstream is hardly surprising, and does 
not detract from its qualit)' at all. It would, in fact, go a long way to- 
wards explaining how a group ot amateurs could come up with such 
a good building. 

The interior was modified a little bit, but not extensively. The 
biggest single change was the redesign of the main staircase to keep 
in entirely within the middle third of the building. A comparison of 
Willie Grahams groundplans on pages 29 and 55 quickly and effec- 
tively shows how things were reorganized within the courthouse. 

Lounsburys third chapter is somewhat misleadingly entitled 
"Modernization of the Courthouse, 1883." It deals with the next sig- 
nificant transformation of the building, which occurred soon after 
the end of Reconstruction and nearly a century after its 1788-1792 
rebuilding. This was not so much a modernization of the structure 
as an attempt to reorganize it in such a way as to turn it into a more 
recognizable version of a "standard" South Carolina count}' court- 
house. Since the classic South Carolina courthouse had been invent- 
ed in the early 1820s by Robert Mills and had virtually nothing to do 
with the form or internal organization of the old Charleston state- 
house/courthouse, this was an ambitious undertaking. 

Before we arrive at this Victorian moment, however, Lounsbury 
provides us a fascinating glimpse into a proposal that, had it not 
been rendered nugatory by the outbreak of the Civil War, would 
have substantially transformed the entire building. This was the pro- 
posal, made public in the fall of i860, to construct a large wing on 
the back, or north, side of the eighteenth-century courthouse, turn- 
ing it into a T-shaped building. Its intent was to provide the build- 
ing with the kinds of judicial spaces that had come to be considered 
necessary for mid-century South Carolina courthouses but that were 
impossible to carve out of the building as it stood. Despite being by 
far the largest courthouse in the state — Robert Mills gives its dimen- 


sions as 120 feet by 60 feet* — the decision to retain the two interior 
transverse walls on the first and second stories during the rebuilding 
of 1788-92 made it impossible to construct courtrooms that were 
much more than thirty feet square, tiny by the standards of the 
1850s. Lounsbury quotes Irom an article in the Charleston Mercury 
in October of i860 that makes it sound like work on the addition 
was about to commence. But already in 1859 the legislature had 
ceased appropriating money lor public building projects, presum- 
ably in anticipation of the coming war, so there was no real chance 
that anything would actually have happened with the courthouse. 

It took nearly twenty years alter Appomattox for Charleston to 
get back on its feet, economically and architecturally. In 1883 the 
Charleston Counrv' commissioners approved plans that called lor 
gutting the building and reconstructing it, within its original exteri- 
or walls, as essentially an oversized South Carolina count)' court- 
house. Viewed in this light, the Victorian work is understandable, if 
ultimately unfortunate. Lounsbury does not look at it like this, how- 
ever, and quotes with approval an anonymous commentator who 
opined that "whoever shall undertake to 'improve' its architecture 
will do no good to the building and as little to himself" (68). 

The radical changes made to the courthouse in 1883-84 were not 
purely arbitrary, although this is the impression that is given by the 
book. Willie Graham's plans of the building after its Victorian trans- 
lormation (69) look like Robert Mills' Kershaw count\' courthouse 
as it was first designed in 1824—25. Local architect/engineers John 
Gourdin and Frederick Smith were clearly looking around, rather 
than ahead, with their redesign ol the courthouse.^ The middle third 
of the building, given over to circulation since its completion at the 
end ol the 1750s, was absorbed into the practicality of the later nine- 
teenth century. The grand staircase with its hall, which had been the 
most noticeable feature ol the interior ol the building, was ripped 
out. The ground floor was remodeled into a series of offices opening 
oft ol a central hallway that now ran Irom the new primary entrance 
at the east (Meeting Street) end ol the building directly throtigh to 


the west, or back side of the structure. Vertical circulation was 
moved to the Meeting Street end of the building, which meant that 
as soon as one entered the building through what had until now 
been a secondary entrance, one was confronted with a stair hall, 
rather than simply a side entrance into the main building. 

The second story was modified as dramatically as the first floor. 
With the total removal of the north-south transverse brick walls (a 
feature oi the building since its initial construction), and the filling 
in of the old central stairwell, this upper floor became for the first 
time a judicial piano nobile, with an entrance vestibule to the east, a 
single courtroom of nearly sixn^ by seventy feet in the center and a 
series of court offices behind the courtroom to the west. The third 
floor now became a series of offices and jury rooms. 

All of this was accomplished at the expense of the integrity of the 
eighteenth-century building. Although the attached portico re- 
mained on the south, or Broad Street, facade, the door that had 
opened into the courthouse there for nearly a hundred years was re- 
placed by a window. An elaborate door surround was placed on the 
east end of the building, facing Meeting Street, marking the new 
main entrance to the courthouse. The rest of the exterior was 
modified as well. The bricks of the ground floor were channeled and 
covered over with new stucco to create a rusticated effect. The string 
courses and niches of the 1788-92 courthouse were removed and the 
windows of the third floor enlarged. Lounsbury's disapproval of all 
of this is clear. "From civic monument," he writes on page 75, "to 
functional office, the symbolic significance of the building had been 
sacrificed on the altar of bureaucratic efficiency." What reallv hap- 
pened was that one grand space — the eighteenth-centurv circulation 
hall and its staircase — had been replaced by another, the Victorian 
second-floor courtroom. 

Soon after all this work had been accomplished, Charleston su- 
ffered one of its greatest natural disasters: the earthquake of August 
1886. Like most of the masonry structures on the peninsula, the 
courthouse was seriouslv damaged. The west wall of the buildins 


was so badly damaged that it needed a great deal oi rebuilding at the 
second- and third-floor levels. The reconstruction of course matched 
the recently completed work, but it also obliterated any evidence of 
the eighteenth-century building on this end. Much more detrimen- 
tal to the architectural integrity oi the courthouse than the earth- 
quake, however, was the treatment the building received throughout 
the twentieth century. Despite Lounsburys feeling that the court- 
house had been sacrificed to bureaucracy in the i88os, county gov- 
ernment was still relatively restricted and benign at that point. More 
officials than simply sheriffs and county clerks — school district su- 
perintendents and health officers, tor example — were starting to be 
located in courthouses, but the flood of expanding county authority 
is really a twentieth-century phenomenon. 

Charleston alone of South Carolina counties did in the nine- 
teenth century what many of them ended up doing in the twentieth: 
spinning county offices away from the central courthouse to satellite 
buildings. When Robert Mills designed the Fireproof Building, offi- 
cially the Count)' Records Office, across the street from the court- 
house, in 1822, it was the first attempt to accommodate district 
(county) government outside of the courthouse proper. It also pro- 
vided security against fire for irreplaceable records, something the 
old building was clearly incapable of. By the 1920s though, the old 
courthouse was severely squeezed for space. At a time when many 
other South Carolina counties were tearing down their old court- 
houses and replacing them with larger modern buildings, Charleston 
county decided to expand its courthouse at Meeting and Broad 
streets. For the first time since the aborted project of the 1850s the 
decision was made to change the footprint of the building. 

In 1926 a two-story wing containing offices and a new courtroom 
was added to the northwest corner of the old building. This expan- 
sion into the rear yard of the courthouse destroyed a privy, one of 
the three surviving eighteenth-century outbuildings on the site. Be- 
cause this addition of the 1920s only briefly eased the space crunch 
in the courthouse, Lounsbury does not devote much time to it. Fif- 


teen years after it was finished it was necessary to expand the court- 
house yet again. In 1941 the local architect David Hyer (not Albert 
Simons, as is so often assumed) decided to replicate the Meeting 
Street facade of the existing building as he filled in the remaining 
space in the crook oi the L-shaped footprint created by the 1926 ad- 
dition, thus creating an architectural doppelganger effect. Louns- 
bury thinks that it was "unfortunate" that Hyer "chose to copy the 
changes that had been made to the building during the 1883 renova- 
tions" (83). But what choice did he really have? Hyer did not have 
access to the building in the same way that Lounsbury & Co. did in 
the 1990s. He did not know, or, presumably, care, what the building 
had looked like in 1792. He only had the Victorian iteration to work 
from. It is legitimate to criticize what he did, but it seems unhir to 
complain that he did not do what he could not have done. 

This significant addition, essentially doubling the space of the 
eighteenth-century courthouse, was again merely a stopgap measure. 
Already by the late 1950s it was clear that even the enlarged building 
was rapidly becoming too small. By the mid-1960s, the nadir ol con- 
cern for historic structures in this country, the county council was 
talking about abandoning the courthouse altogether. Preservation- 
minded Charlestonians petitioned the council not to abandon the 
old building, and Sam Stoney, a Charleston architect and indefatiga- 
ble preservationist, created a design that would have doubled again 
the size of the already doubled courthouse. The result of this agita- 
tion was the decision essentially to leave the courthouse alone struc- 
turally and build a big new county building just to its north. The 
courthouse continued to be modified cosmetically however, general- 
ly to its detriment. Some modest attempts in 1968-69 to restore lost 
features are enumerated by Lounsbury, but they were not thorough 
and are damned by his very taint praise. 

By the last couple of decades of the twentieth century the Charles- 
ton courthouse was in sorry shape. Very few people thought anymore 
that it contributed much to the Broad Street cityscape and no one 
was happy with how it functioned. As mentioned above, the conclu- 

300K REVIEW 8/ 

sion oi Lounsburys book is really a continuation of the foreword and 
a justification of the restoration choices that the Charleston count)' 
council ultimately made concerning the courthouse. Shakespeare's 
aphorism "the past is prelude" is fitting here, especially since it comes 
from his play The Tempest, for it was the destruction to the building 
caused by the tempest named Hugo in 1989 that allowed Lounsbury 
& Co. to do the research that led to the county council's decision, 
first of all to restore the building, and secondly to restore it to its pe- 
riod of greatest architectural significance. 

The book is lacking its final chapter. A case could be made that its 
publication should have been delayed until after the courthouse 
restoration was completed in 2001 so that Lounsbury could have 
written a celebratory conclusion detailing the spectacular retrieval of 
the interior spaces and exterior forms of the late eighteenth-century 
building. The penultimate photograph in the book (90) shows the 
rear of the courthouse covered with an enormous piece of fabric sus- 
pended from the eaves, on which was printed a cartoon version of 
what was to come. Wrangling over just what form the restoration 
would take, and who would shoulder the costs (and what costs 
would be acceptable) took so many years that this advertisement for 
the building's future was ultimately shredded by wind and rain. No 
matter; the architectural realit}' of what was done far surpasses this 
temporary "facade" and the photograph records what is now just a 
sentimental moment in the past. 

If this were a book of poetry it would probably be described as a 
'slim volume.' Its architectural argument is mainly made with words, 
a fact attested to by the decision not to number the photographs. 
This makes it impossible to refer to them to illustrate an argument 
or a point, so they remain always outside the text. Even when they 
could be useful to make a particular point they are not brought into 
the argument, which leads one, by the end of the book, to conclude 
that they mostly serve to fortify the slim text. A more serious criti- 
cism of the photographs is that their captions assume a significant 
familiarit)' with the Charleston cit)'scape. That is to say that there 
are a number of cases where the explanation accompanying the pho- 


to fails to identify clearly even what building, of several possible 
choices, the viewer should be looking at. After a couple of these, the 
reader could begin to feel that the book might possibly be aimed at a 
specific audience — oi which he (or she) is not a part. This would be 
an unfortunate conclusion to reach. These captions are probably an 
inadvertent result of a too great familiarity with Charleston. We all 
tend to forget that others do not know what we know. This is what 
editors are for. 

It is an editor's job too to catch glaring internal inconsistencies. 
For example, on pages 50 and 51 there are two reconstruction draw- 
ings of the Broad Street entrance to the courthouse, the main one 
until the 1883 reorientation. Brown Morton's 1991 drawing shows the 
two windows flanking the door as having round heads. This could 
have been conjectural but the accompanying caption clearly states 
that the physical evidence supports the drawing. On the facing page 
we are given Mark Wenger's undated restored south elevation of the 
courthouse that shows the same windows with flat heads. Again, this 
might have been an oversight except that the text unequivocally says 
that "[t]he two adjoining windows retained their flat-headed open- 
ings." What are we to believe? To this reviewer's eye, the round- 
headed windows look suspiciously Italianate, rather than neoclassi- 
cal. And since the courthouse was actually restored with flat-topped 
windows the authority of the building itself must be taken into ac- 
count. It would be nice, however, if we could be sure. 

A great strength of the book, one already mentioned, is the collec- 
tion of ground plans and elevations, reconstructed by Mark Wenger 
and Willie Graham. They do an admirable job of supporting the 
restoration decisions made for the building, and this, presumably, 
was their primary task. Many times the accompanying captions note 
that they are "measured" drawings but in only a couple of cases is a 
scale included and never are we even given such basic facts as the 
measurements of the courthouse. For this review it was necessary to 
turn to Mills' 1826 description of the building to get that informa- 

Of course these are quibbles; generally inconsequential given the 


primary function of the book to legitimate the total restoration of 
the courthouse. As was frequently pointed out in the Charleston 
Post & Courier, the 13.6 million dollar cost of the work — that comes 
to something over $900 a square foot — made it one of the most, if 
not the most, expensive public restorations in the history of the 
country. Most of this cost was borne by Charleston County, but the 
private advocacy group Friends of the Charleston County Court- 
house also raised about a million dollars that was spent on the interi- 
or restoration and furnishings. 

Lounsburys book essentially disregards this interior aspect of the 
building, but it is one that jumps out at the visitor to the newly re- 
opened courthouse. What historical basis is there for the decisions 
made regarding the furnishings and decoration of the interiors? Is it 
possible to argue so thoroughly for an exterior restoration of a build- 
ing, only to opt out when it comes to finishing the inside? Because 
the book was written long before the decisions about the court- 
house's interiors were taken they could not have made up an impor- 
tant element of its argument. 

The interior architecture was largely recreated from a handful of 
fragments of eighteenth-century details recovered during the gutting 
and restoration of the courthouse. A panel door frame served as the 
model for most of the door surrounds and, by way of its molding, of 
the wainscoting in the interiors. A scrap of gouge work became the 
basis of the frieze in the big courtroom on the second floor and a 
number of lintel moldings over important doors. Beyond these sur- 
viving bits, the inspiration for other inside details came from period 
pattern books and from surviving contemporary Charleston interi- 
ors. Glenn Keyes, the local restoration architect hired to oversee the 
finishing of the courthouse's rooms displayed a laudable reticence in 
downplaying interior finishes where historical evidence was not con- 

All of the public rooms ot the courthouse recall the late eigh- 
teenth-century period of the restoration except for one: the law li- 
brary at the head of the stairs on the second floor. The choice was 
made here to recreate the mid-nineteenth-century library in the 


nearby home of James Louis Petigru, noted South Carolina lawyer 
and staunch unionist. This room acknowledges the transformation 
of uses within the courthouse during the nineteenth century. In 1792 
it housed the Register of Mesne Conveyance, but in 1826 it became 
the library oi the South Carolina Law Society, so its present use is, if 
not purely historically accurate, at least defensible. One suspects that 
it will serve much more frequently as a venue for receptions than as a 
working library. 

Other furnishings throughout the building reflect the period gen- 
erally. Research on the history of the building brought to light an or- 
der for fift)' Windsor chairs, so Windsor chairs provide much of the 
moveable seating throughout the building. Chandeliers are copies of 
ones found in Independence Hall and in the U.S. Capitol during 
the federal period. Carpets are based on late eighteenth-century 
English examples. The most questionable decision was the one to 
decorate the walls with photographic reproductions of paintings of 
notable jurists that were then touched up by an artist with a brush. 
These will look good in photographs, but standing in front of them 
they come across as more than a little garish. The authentic nine- 
teenth-century portrait of Petigru in the law library is a visual relief 

Lounsburys book is a chronicle ot the investigative work that led 
to the restoration decisions made for the Charleston county court- 
house. There can be little doubt that without the work of Louns- 
bury &C Co. and without the constant voice oi Jonathan Poston of 
Historic Charleston Foundation these decisions would not have 
been taken and would not have been stuck to through the twelve 
years from the wrecking of the building by hurricane Hugo to its tri- 
umphant reopening in June of 2001. The courthouse will outlast the 
book, but that is as it should be. Costa Pleicones, a justice oi the 
South Carolina Supreme Court and a speaker at the reopening cere- 
monies, remarked there that "lofty concepts demand lofty symbols." 
This is the way that people used to talk about courthouses, but it has 
largely gone out oi fashion, partly because courthouses oi the last 
fifty years or so have so rarely achieved loftiness, but also because ju- 
rists themselves seem to have become embarrassed to speak about 


the law in this manner. There is no loftier concept than Law, and 
there probably is no grander expression anywhere in the nation of 
the symbolic power of the law than the newly restored Charleston 
courthouse. Lounsbury is to be commended for helping to make 
this happen. 


Professor of Architectural History/Urban Desigfi, 
College of Charleston 


1. Kenneth Severens. Clkirlestoii A>itehellu»i Architecture jiiti Civic Dt'stiny. Knoxville: Uni- 
versit)' of Tennessee Press, 1988. 

2. Charles Fraser. Reminiscences of Clnirlestoii. Charleston. 1S54; 9q-ioo. 

3. Robert Mills. Statistics of South Carolina. Charleston, 1826: 408. 

4. Almost everv' rime that a building designer is identified as an 'engineer' in nineteenth 
and rwentieth-eentur)' South Carolina it means that he (it is always a he) is an architect ot 
meager talent.